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To ask for university appeals advice?

(24 Posts)
Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 00:43:05

Hello, I usually lurk but I’m posting as I’m desperate for advice. I’m currently in the process of appealing a decision that has been made by my university. I don’t want to drip feed so this may be long. Apologies in advance. Last year I had to retake modules over the summer. I had a total of six essays to hand in by August. I managed to complete five but needed a few extra days for the final one due to being admitted to hospital. I submitted an extenuating circumstance claim for the outstanding essay. I had an operation whilst in hospital and I’ve provided my university with medical evidence. I eventually heard back in late September (the essay had been completed by this time) and was told I would have to resit the entire year again. This felt excessive since there was just one essay. I questioned the decision and a member of staff admitted they had misinterpreted my claim and assumed I would not be able to hand in the essay at all. This was not the case and they should have asked. I had completed five so why would I risk failing by not handing in my final assignment? (hmm) I was then told that even if they did accept my essay, I still wouldn’t pass/progress as there was an essay outstanding from 2016. No one mentioned this before. The essay is outstanding because I forgot to submit an extenuating circumstance claim for it. It was an honest mistake as I was suffering from severe depression and anxiety in 2016. I was suicidal and on antidepressants and I’ve submitted medical evidence for this. I appealed the decision to make me resit and I was informed of the outcome yesterday. They have said they will mark my essay that was due August 2017 without delay but that my appeal will not be upheld as I did not submit an appeal in 2016 so I am out of time. I didn’t know if I was coming or going in 2016 and no one mentioned the missing module to me. I realise the mistake is my own but I feel the department should have brought it to my attention as they knew of my mental health issues at the time. I had to submit 7 claims and I only submitted 6 by mistake. If they could realise this in 2017 then why not in 2016 when it mattered? I don’t know where to go from here and I’m absolutely devastated. I can’t discuss it with family as I know they will be so disappointed by my lack of success. I’m 23 so I really don’t want to resit as I should have already graduated by now. I have one more go at the appeals process as I can ask for a final review but I don’t know how to make them see things from my point of view. I’ve given them a letter from my GP explaining I forgot to include a module due to a mix of panic, stress and poor mental health but they’re not having any of it. If anyone has any advice or experience with this kind of thing I’d really appreciate it as I feel like a complete failure.

loopsdefruit Wed 21-Mar-18 01:04:54

I didn't want to read and run, some of this advice may not be relevant but we'll see.

So, the essay from 2016, was that your first year or second year (2015/16 or 2016/17?)

If it's from a whole other year, and you were allowed to progress to your next year of study despite the outstanding essay, then they should not go back on that decision now.

If both the 2016 essay and the 2017 essay were from the same academic year (one from fall semester and one from spring) then you were in fact missing 2 essays by the point that you went in to hospital. The progress board usually meets at the end of the summer, and if you fail to progress at that stage or your work is handed in too late for that board usually you do need to either retake the year/part of the year or take time out and start your next year the following september.

As for the appeal, do get in contact with your student union, they are there for precisely this kind of thing and can support you with the appeal and with discussions with the uni. Also your academic adviser, disability support service, senior adviser for your school etc... talk to everyone and try to come up with a plan.

You are not a failure, and if this is your first attempt at uni you can take some time out and still get student finance funding.

Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 01:08:17

Thank you for responding smile yes the essays from 2016 and 2017 are from the same academic year. I had to take some
Time out due to poor mental health. I have emailed my student union representative and will hopefully speak to her tomorrow. I've also got an appointment to seek legal advice on Thursday.

4catsaremylife Wed 21-Mar-18 01:09:40

I was looking at this information only the other day for my DD's university. Go to see the SU student advice centre. There should be an appeals procedure for your university and the student advice centre will be the best placed people to help you. The process is long-winded but goes right up to the office of the independent adjudicator, who are effectively an ombudsman. The SU advice centre will be able to go through the entire appeals process. Good luck it sounds as though you've had a difficult time and I hope you are able to get this sorted.

Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 01:15:55

Thank you @4cats . I'll be speaking with my student union tomorrow. I've almost exhausted the appeals process at my university. I have a final review left and if that doesn't go my way then the case will go to the OIA. I'm hoping the final review goes well as the OIA can take months to reach a decision. The entire process is so long and time is not on my side. I hope your daughter gets a good outcome

NewIdeasToday Wed 21-Mar-18 02:59:03

Sorry to hear you’ve had such a tough time. And well done for sticking at it with your course.

Given that you had to redo so many assignments, would it not be better to follow your university’s processes and resit the year? This would ensure that you really get to grips with all the material from that year and can go in to complete your degree with confidence.

orangesandlemonssing Wed 21-Mar-18 04:02:38

I've heard of people officially sitting the whole year but in reality only sitting them modules they failed. This meant they got jobs alongside and had fees in proportion to the number of modules they took. It also meant their mark wasn't called at 40%.
I'm really sorry this happened to you but if worse comes to worse this might not be a disaster for you. If you had to resist 6 essays over summer I imagine that's several modules capped at 40%? Resitting a module might help you boost your grade and you could get the work experience to strengthen your cv. You could also try and get some help to stabilise your mental health throughout the year so when you do graduate you will be in a better place to work and move on with your life.

Good luck !

YimminiYoudar Wed 21-Mar-18 05:59:59

orangesandlemonssing has some good advice there.

Repeating the year needn't be a disaster and could lead to a better overall degree result and better employability if you can use the time cannily. As you will be repeating material you have already covered you should have more time available for work or volunteering that enhances your cv.

You've been ill. It's OK for that to affect your studies. When you look back aged 60+ there's not going to be much difference between life paths if you graduate age 24 or 25. Is the stress of fighting this really worth it?

DaisyInTheChain Wed 21-Mar-18 06:08:18

I think you might be at a Uni notorious for this, or else it's really sad that in this era Uni's can't cope with people who are unwell.

My experience was I appealed, but they closed ranks and had to protect themselves from their cock up, so that was that. It was annoying but don't expect like the disability team or SU to be of any use, as in my situation it was pretty much, the decision on this matter has been made, there's no going back.

What was really annoying was there was another student who had mental health issues. They were allowed to progress with a load of support. That really didn't seem fair. Especially since their situation on what I was being pulled up on was worse than mine. Yet everything was fine and they had the upmost empathy for the student with anxiety.

It doesn't instil confidence for future years at this place. It doesn't instil confidence for any student with physical health issues.

Feel free to inbox me.

jigsawpiece Wed 21-Mar-18 08:57:03

There must be a mechanism to inform the students about resits. Were you informed about the 2016 essay? If not that is a procedural error

Lobsterface Wed 21-Mar-18 09:08:50

Did you get a grade for semester 1 or a bit completed?

lizzie1970a Wed 21-Mar-18 09:16:12

Sorry I don't fully understand it but did the university in anyway fail in informing you about any piece of the process or reminder or direction? My DS had to appeal his first year (in another country though) and won. We hired a lawyer though who knew the system and knew where the university had failed him. A few key words at the hearing (in front of 3 people) and he won. It cost us £120. Is this something you can look in to? My DS spoke to the lawyer for 3 hours and the money was well worth it for the advice. Is there anyone there that can support you in terms of pointing out if the uni hasn't followed procedure.

I wish you well and well done on getting this far. I know it's not the best but it won't be the end of the world resitting. However, I can fully understand if cost is a factor.

lizzie1970a Wed 21-Mar-18 09:16:51

Meant to say the lawyer specialised in university appeals and advertised as such. Is there something similar in the UK?

Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 11:20:08

Thank you don't so much all your responses. I know deep down that resitting wouldn't be the end of the world but it's difficult to accept that when pretty much all of my friends have graduated. This was meant to be my final year so I should have been graduating this year. I can't help but worry that people will think I'm useless if I end up graduating in 2020. I've already had some annoying comments about it. I can just about deal with graduating next year but that will only happen if I win my appeal. All the essays I've handed in were called at 40% and I've passed them all. Being capped isn't ideal but they're for the first academic year which is only worth 10% of my overall grade so I wasn't too fussed. I just wanted to stay on the course. By the time I was informed of the essay in 2016 it was too late. I definitely feel like they're closing ranks as my student union advisor has agreed they messed up. I will be seeking legal advice tomorrow. I'm sorry to all those who have gone through the same thing, it's honestly soul destroying

Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 11:20:55

Thank you @daisy I'm sorry you experienced the same thing. I'm currently waiting to see my student union rep but I will message you soon after smile

lizzie1970a Wed 21-Mar-18 11:28:56

Good luck Genevieve. If they've admitted they messed up hopefully someone legal can give you advice on that. You've now done the work so I can see why you wouldn't want to resit the year. Also that extra year of studying could perhaps be spent on a master's at some point. I hope you come back on and update. Wishing you well.

TheClacksAreDown Wed 21-Mar-18 11:32:29

Sounds messy and that you’ve had a tough time with health problems.

But here is the thing - you had to ask for extenuating circumstances earlier in an academic year, this didn’t cover everything and you have work outstanding. Then you fail various modules and when it comes to the resit deadlines again you’re asking for extenuating circumstances to miss deadlines. Which from their perspective is a lot of issues in one year.

All of that said that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t follow process. One point I’m not clear you’ve covered is why they let you onto the current year if the outstanding 2016 essay meant you haven’t passed that year.

theymademejoin Wed 21-Mar-18 11:50:57

It's not clear to me how the university messed up? Certainly, they could have brought the missing form to your attention but ultimately, that was your responsibility, not theirs, so not a cock up per se but more a lack of pastoral care. Depending on the size of the class/department/university, pastoral care may or may not be possible at that level.

There are generally very rigid rules regarding appeals and time scales for these due to the tight timescales for turnaround of results. Due to the number of students who take the piss big time (and I am not for one minute suggesting you are), the rules tend to be enforced very strictly. That means that the genuine cases tend to suffer.

I would suggest that you emphasise the mental health issue, stress the fact they knew about this, mention that you will be seeking advice etc. See is it possible to carry it forward to your next year. Some universities allow that.

However, as others have said, it's not the end of the world if you have to repeat. Good luck.

CuboidalSlipshoddy Wed 21-Mar-18 12:05:12

Without wishing to sound snide, and speaking as someone who occasionally reads appeal cases, it's not clear from your account what actually happened. If you do actually appeal, you need to write up a better account, so people can understand it.

It appears that you failed a bunch of modules over the course of your second (?) year. You then were offered the opportunity to redo the assessment over the summer. Six essays is a lot: how many credits did they represent? You then had further health problems which meant you didn't complete that round of assessment, so you sought (at this point different universities have different rules) extenuation in order to get an extension? waiver? what? for the last of the essays you needed to take. This was messed up, and you failed the year and have been told to repeat. On the face of it, that's appealable: you applied for exentuating circumstances and it wasn't processed.

But surely, at worst, even setting this aside, you only failed the module associated with the essay you didn't submit?

Retaking the year seems very harsh; I would expect you to just need to retake the module you failed, and I can see why you think you have an appealable situation.

However, we're now six months on from the events you describe: what are you currently doing?

Could you outline what happened each year?

Morphene Wed 21-Mar-18 12:17:45

Its is strange that they can't be more flexible given that these were essays and not exams.

We too would have to have someone repeat a year if they miss the resit exams because the next exam opportunity isn't until the next year. But I don't see that this should apply to essays.

I feel like repeating the year actually is likely your best possibility here. But that doesn't take into account the fall out of being isolated etc.

The feeling that you have somehow failed by not graduating with your original cohort is really false thinking though. We are tremendously obsessed in this country with the idea that it matters how quickly you attain a certain education level rather than concentrating on what level is actually attained. Ohter places in the world don't have that bias at all. It matters where you get to not how long it took to get there.

There is more and more diversity in routes taken through education these days. People are doing part time degrees or taking years out for all sorts of reasons, coming to uni much later in life etc. etc.

I would say therefore that if spending an extra year will get you through with better grades then you should probably leap at the chance. If its just the only way to get through then its still worth it to get your degree.

Finally I would have a spectacularly dim opinion of anyone who thought less of someone who took an extra year to graduate because they had problems due to, for instance, having cancer and chemo for a year....and a mental illness is no different whatsoever.

CuboidalSlipshoddy Wed 21-Mar-18 12:34:43

We too would have to have someone repeat a year if they miss the resit exams because the next exam opportunity isn't until the next year. But I don't see that this should apply to essays.

Not essay-based subject. In our case, we have courses which are mostly or entirely examined, when there are only two opportunities per year to take the exam. If you haven't passed the main or the repeat sittings (and still have a sit left, given the second failure is final, which implies one or both of the sittings was mitigated in some way), you need to wait a year. When the course is continuously assessed, resit is repeat-only, generally; in theory we can permit re-doing assessments over the summer, and might in the case of a very borderline fail of one item, but there are problems with access to labs and tutorial support which mean that it screams "appeal".

The feeling that you have somehow failed by not graduating with your original cohort is really false thinking though

Fewer than half of our students graduate with the cohort they started with. Leaves of absence, years in industry, years abroad, intercalated years in other departments, health, repeats, sabbatical SU posts, etc, etc. And we're about as traditional as you can get outside Oxbridge; almost entirely live-away, almost exclusively 18 or 19, no access qualifications, almost everyone has the same A Levels, no part-time modes. I presume that in post-92s with a high level of non-traditional students the level of cohort dispersion is even higher.

Finally I would have a spectacularly dim opinion of anyone who thought less of someone who took an extra year to graduate

Yep. I doubt most employers would even know, never mind care. You took four years to get a degree: what of it?

Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 12:47:29

Sorry I haven't been clear, i was afraid of being outed. My initial appeal was written very well as my student union rep helped me do it. So all the essays are from the first academic year. I started doing a language degree which I hated so I deferred and went to work so I could figure out what to study. I ended up going back to do literature in September 2015. My mental health took a nosedive in 2016 due to things going on in my personal life so I asked to resit the modules in 2017. In march 2017 I broke my ankle and severely damaged my knee which left me housebound for three months. I was in a lot of pain and this meant I had to submit my essays in August instead of may 2017. In 2016 I had to submit extenuating circumstances claims for 7 modules. I was incredibly stressed and in a very bad place at the time so I mistakenly submitted 6 claims instead of 7. The university were aware of my mental health issues at the time as my doctor provided them with medical documents outlining how bad things had gotten. By the time I was informed of the missing module I was out of time to include it with the other claims. My union rep told me they should have mentioned this to me earlier as I was in no fit state to notice. She said they would have seen it as soon as they looked at my academic record and they should have brought it to my attention as I needed to pass all 7 modules to progress to second year. I have passed 6 essays. However I cannot progress because of the mistake I made in 2016. My rep has argued that there is fault on both sides but they had a duty of care since the missing essay was vital for progression. I fully admit my mistake but I feel I have been penalised very harshly. Resitting a whole year over one essay just seems a little much and I've had tutors agree with me. I submitted one claim in 2017 because I had to be admitted to hospital due to ongoing problems with my ankle. At that point I had already completed five essays so I was definitely serious about getting things done. I completed the essay three days after I was discharged from hospital. However an examiner assumed i wouldn't be able to hand in my essay at all despite my claim outlining that I'd need an extension. If things weren't clear she could have asked me and I'd have given her the completed essay. I hope I've made things clearer.

Genevievevavance Wed 21-Mar-18 12:59:17

Also I realise my posts sound very self indulgent and "woe is me" so sorry about that

CarrotVan Wed 21-Mar-18 13:11:15

Universities can't be more flexible as they have formal examination boards at set times. Can you imagine trying to convene examination boards, preceded by mit circs panels, for each individual student's personal timeline and maintain anonymity? It would be impossible

OP I'm trying to get your timeline straight.

You were admitted to the university in September 2016 as a first year student

You failed 6 summative assignments in your first year, resubmitted 5 of the assignments in the August 2017 resit period as a second attempt, capped mark of 40.

You requested mitigation for the 6th assignment for medical reasons and subsequently submitted the Assignment in September 2017. There seems to be some confusion about what happened here.

You have been allowed to progress to the second year but have since been told there is additional outstanding work from your first year that you need to complete

Did you request, and get given, an extension for the 6th Assignment and submit before the extended deadline as well as requesting mitigation?

Did you request mitigation for all the Assignments in this period?

Did you request mitigation for your first attempts at the assignments?

Are you registered with University disability support services for your health issues? You say the University is aware and therefore you should have been referred (duty of care, Equality Act)

This other assignment that is apparently missing. What is this from?

Did you receive 120 academic credits for your first year? (You should be able to access an interim, ratified transcript). If you are missing more than 20 credits you should not have been allowed to progress.

Do you have contemporaneous evidence of your health problems relating to period of the missing assignment?

Looking at this from the perspective of someone who deals with appeals professionally for a University I see a number of issues that I would want to bottom out.

1. What did the University know about your health issues and when? Was appropriate support provided and taken up?

2. Were you advised appropriately about mitigation and extensions? I would think that an extension for your 6th assignment in the August 2017 period would have been appropriate, possibly also with mitigation. But not solely mitigation

3. Was mitigation requested and applied appropriately when the assignments were first taken? It may have been possible for the first attempt to be discounted and the attempt in the resit period to have been considered a first attempt with no mark cap.

4. What is this missing assignment? Would it be reasonable to assume that you knew about it? Should you have been allowed to progress to the second year carrying this credit requirement given the potential additional stress it may cause? Should you have been allowed to progress under the regulations of the University.

Finally, if your appeal is upheld the University will try to find a resolution that puts you back in the position you were before the error occurred.

My personal view is that if the University knew about your health issues when you first took the assignments you should have been advised to submit a mitigation request. You should then have been allowed a resit as a first attempt opportunity in August. You should have requested and been granted an extension for any assignments due whilst in hospital. You should have been referred to disability services, counselling services and occupational health if there is a fit to study policy. You should also have been encouraged to apply for an (retrospective) interruption and started your first year again given all your health issues.

Other things to note - not seeking help is not usually acceptable mitigation (I know this sucks for mental health issues). Not being registered with a local GP and therefore not having medical evidence is not acceptable for mitigation. Evidence that isn't contemporaneous with the period concerned is not usually accepted. Evidence that could reasonably have been presented at the time as part of a mitigation request is not usually accepted. Requesting mitigation under the Appeals process when there isn't a good reason as to why you didn't request it prior to your deadline isn't usually accepted.

Seek advice from the Students Union. I doubt a solicitor will be much use. They don't add a lot to the process in my experience.

Read all the relevant policies and procedures. Get your timeline and evidence straight

Good luck

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