Academic Appeals

What can you appeal?

As a University of Sussex student you have the right to appeal some (though not all) decisions made by the University.

For example, if you have failed a module, or your whole course; disagree with a decision made by an Academic Misconduct Panel; or the result of a particular assessment, you may wish to submit an appeal.

About the appeals process

The University have produced a comprehensive guide to appeals which gives detailed information about the appeals procedure.

We'd strongly suggest having a look through the guide if you're considering submitting an appeal.

Meanwhile, here are five important points to bear in mind if you are considering appealing:

1. There are strict time limits

If you wish to appeal, you must do so within a fairly tight timescale; most academic appeals must be lodged within 21 calendar days of the publication of the examiners' decision. An appeal against a decision that a student is required to withdraw from the University must be lodged within 7 working days of the date of the notification letter.

View deadlines for appeals

2. You cannot challenge ‘academic judgement’

In other words, you cannot challenge a decision just because you think a tutor/examiner has come to the wrong conclusion about your work.

Unfortunately you cannot force the University to agree to a ‘re-marking’ of your work; and thinking that the tutor has failed to appreciate the merit in your work is not a ground for appeal (see point 3 below).

View the types of decisions students can appeal

3. You will need a ground for your appeal

You can only appeal University decision on certain grounds and you must be very clear on what basis you are disputing a decision, so it is worth familiarising yourself with the grounds before you think about submitting an appeal.

You can find an explanation of the formal grounds for appeal on the University’s website.

If your circumstances do not fit one or more of these grounds then it is unlikely that your appeal will succeed.

4. It is largely a paper exercise!

Nearly all appeals are decided on the basis of a student’s appeal form and supporting evidence, so it is very unlikely that you will be asked to attend a formal appeal hearing.

Therefore it is worth taking some time over the form and thinking carefully about relevant supporting evidence.

Download an appeal form

5. You may need to complete a 'pre appeals form'

Before submitting the main appeal form you may first need to complete a 'pre appeals form'. This form is a compulsory part of the process for many types of appeals, so you may not be allowed to formally submit your appeal without having taken this step.

Find details for submitting your pre-appeals form»

Preparing an appeal

1. Draft a timeline of events

Before you complete the appeal form , draft a timeline of events to help you organise your thoughts. It will help the person considering your appeal if your completed form tells your story via a coherent sequence of events, rather than jumping about all over the place.

2. Keep in mind the appeal grounds

As you explain your circumstances, try to relate them to one or more of the appeal grounds. Your appeal won’t succeed unless you can show how a ground is relevant to your situation.

As you go along, ask yourself ‘does this bit of information help me satisfy one of the grounds?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then you probably don’t need to include it.

Also try to make sure that you have addressed every part of the relevant ground somewhere in your explanation, e.g. Ground One requires that a student had ’mitigating circumstances’ which affected their performance, but also that there was a good reason why the student did not alert the University to this before the exam or essay deadline. Don’t forget to address this second part of the ground when you are telling your story!

3. Stay calm – avoid emotive language

You may feel very angry or upset about your situation, particularly if you feel let down in some way by the University. While it is fine for your appeal to convey the effect your situation has had on you, try to avoid unduly adversarial, hostile or emotional language such as "I was treated disgracefully" or "the advice I was given by Prof Bloggs was useless!"

The people considering your appeal only care about the facts of your case, and the consequences which flowed from these. Remaining objective and factual will serve you best, and help indicate to those considering your form that you are sufficiently convinced of the merits of the case not to resort to excessive emotion.

4. Provide relevant supporting evidence where possible

It will greatly strengthen your appeal if you can provide evidence confirming the key elements of your circumstances. This could include;

  • Medical certificates or letter from your GP or specialist if you are claiming that health issues affected your performance
  • A letter from a counsellor or mentor regarding any relevant personal crisis
  • A letter from a relative confirming family-related issues
  • Copies of emails, letters, or the minutes of meetings between you and academic staff
  • Extracts from a course or programme handbook if you are arguing there has been an error in the assessment process.

Remember to refer to your evidence at relevant points when you are telling your story.

5. Be specific

Wherever possible, include specific dates for key events, and if there are conversations/discussions included in your story then try to give the names of the relevant University staff or faculty members.

Make sure you properly explain how & why any adverse events affected you. For example, instead of simply saying "My mum had a serious illness so I couldn’t revise properly", you might like to say:

"My mum suffers from (details of illness).

On (specific date) my mum was unexpectedly taken to (name of ) hospital after collapsing at home. This was (exact number of) days before my exam.

For the next (x) days she was in intensive care and I spent most of my time at the hospital.

She was allowed home on (specific date) but needed help with basic tasks such as cooking and washing for the next fortnight.

I am her only close relative, and was effectively her main carer during this period. In the week preceding my exam, I averaged 2-3 hours sleep as my mum needed frequent assistance getting to the bathroom during the night.

The resulting stress, worry and lack of sleep prevented me from following my revision plan and meant that I couldn’t retain information in the normal way".

6. Include a clear & realistic preferred outcome

Explaining what you want to happen if your appeal is successful can be just as important as the reasons for appealing.

Don't ask for an increase to your exam mark or degree classification – it almost never happens. Instead, try to identify a realistic way of taking your studies forward. This might mean being allowed another resit opportunity for example, or an opportunity to repeat a period of study.

The University has strict rules regarding whether a student has done well enough to be allowed to progress to their next academic year of study—you may like to get advice about this before writing your appeal!

7. Discuss your draft appeal form with us

When you have finished a draft of your appeal statement, get in touch with the Students' Union Advice team in Falmer House who will be able to provide you with detailed helpful & constructive comments which may well improve your chances of success!

How we can help

If you would like more advice or support from us regarding your appeal, please contact us to speak to a Student Union Adviser about your situation. Our service is confidential and independent from the University.

We can:

  • Help you to decide if appealing is the best course of action for you
  • Work out if you do have a potential ground for appeal
  • Answer any questions you may have regarding how the process works
  • Provide suggestions on how best to structure and present your appeal submission & supporting evidence

Here to help

If you'd like to discuss your concern further, our Student Advice team are here to help. Our service is confidential and independent from the University.

Student Advice, 1st Floor, Falmer House, University of Sussex.