Public interest cases

Non attendance and non completion of work - January 2016


Student excluded from assessment opportunity

University of Westminster

A student at the University of Westminster appealed a decision to remove him from the course for lack of progress including a failed core module.

The University had counted as an attempt an assessment that the student was not allowed to complete because of unpaid tuition fees. Failure in this module contributed to the Assessment Board’s decision to terminate his studies. The University confirmed to the OIA that, had this element not been counted as an attempt, the student would have had a further opportunity to take the assessment.

We expressed concern about the blanket policy of preventing students from attending assessments when they have debts and suggested that the University consider other options in these circumstances, such as refusing to mark work or withholding a mark or an award until the debt is cleared.

We decided the complaint was Partly Justified. We recommended that the student be given a fresh opportunity to submit work, and financial compensation for distress and inconvenience.


Late submission – responsibility on students

Sheffield Hallam University

A student at Sheffield Hallam University complained to the OIA after her appeal against the decision of an Assessment Board was rejected.

The Assessment Board referred the student in a piece of coursework because it was submitted after the submission deadline and therefore was not considered to be a valid attempt. The student explained that she had taken the submission deadline date from Turnitin.

The University accepted that the date given on Turnitin was misleading as it applied only to students who had been granted an extension. However the appeal panel noted that the student had been advised to use the assessment scheduler, the Blackboard site and the module guidance, all or which gave the correct date. No other students had submitted work late.

The OIA decided that the University’s decision was reasonable and in accordance with its Assessment Regulations and Appeal Regulations.

We found the student’s complaint Not Justified.


Extenuating circumstances and non-submission of work

University of Leicester

A student at the University of Leicester complained to the OIA after appealing unsuccessfully against the University’s decision not to extend the maximum registration period for an MBA, and to award him a Postgraduate Diploma. The University explained that the request was denied due to lack of progress. The student had not completed his dissertation and had not submitted any work in the preceding four years.

The student claimed that he had been unaware of the deadlines for submitting work. He also claimed extenuating circumstances relating to work-related stress and a recurrent health issue. The University took the view that these were insufficient to explain why he had not submitted work. The student did not provide any indication of how his circumstances affected his ability to complete his dissertation, and did not provide any fresh information to the appeal panel that had not been taken into account when he applied for an extension of registration.

The assessment of the impact of extenuating circumstances normally involves academic judgment in which the OIA will not interfere. We decided that the University’s decision that the extenuating circumstances were not sufficient to explain the student’s lack of progress was reasonable in the circumstances of the case, and that the timescales for submitting work were made clear to students on the Blackboard Student Website.

We decided the complaint was Not Justified.


Withdrawal for non-attendance

University of East London

A student at the University of East London complained to the OIA after her appeal against withdrawal for non-attendance was rejected.

The University had previously given the student opportunities to improve her attendance before withdrawing her in the second semester. By that time it felt she had missed too much teaching to be able to catch up. The student’s attendance fell well below the course requirement of 75 per cent attendance.

The student appealed the decision on the grounds of ill-health and concerns that her swipe card had not been working properly. She had not contacted the University about either of these issues before being notified of the decision to withdraw her.

The OIA decided that the University’s decision was reasonable. As the student had not contacted the University it was not in a position to offer her any support. Its decision to withdraw her was in line with its academic regulations.

We decided that her complaint was Not Justified.


Attendance and disability

Newcastle University

An international student with a Tier 4 visa at Newcastle University complained to the OIA after being withdrawn from his course for non-attendance. He complained that insufficient attention had been given to his disability.

The student did not submit evidence of his disability until close to the end of the disciplinary process. The OIA considered that once this evidence was provided the onus was on the University to consider what regulations and procedures it was applying to the student and whether it ought reasonably to make reasonable adjustments to those regulations and procedures to remove any disadvantage to the student. There was no evidence that this had happened.

The OIA decided that the student’s complaint was Justified. The student no longer wished to return to the course. We recommended a partial refund of fees and accommodation costs and financial compensation for distress.


Delay in appealing

Coventry University

A student at Coventry University complained to the OIA that the University did not accept his late appeal against withdrawal for non-attendance.

Following two warnings the University wrote to the student advising him that he was being withdrawn, and advising of his right to appeal within 10 working days. The student did not appeal within the deadline. He explained that he had ignored the letter as he thought it had been sent in error and only took action when he was unable to submit work electronically because his registration had been terminated.

The OIA’s review focused on the University’s final decision, which was to refuse to consider the appeal because the student submitted it late. We concluded that decision was within the University’s appeal regulations, and that it was reasonable. The University had made its regulations clear to students through a number of means including the student handbook and the student portal.

The OIA decided that the complaint was Not Justified.


Lack of evidence to support appeal

King's College London

A student on a BSc programme at King’s College London complained to the OIA about the College’s decision to reject her academic appeal.

The student had been given two extensions to the deadline for her dissertation on the grounds of extenuating circumstances but failed to submit work. After the second extension expired she submitted a Notification for Examination Absence (NEA) - the process to follow when unable to submit a dissertation. This was not accepted as it was outside the deadline and she was awarded an exit award of a Pass in a DipHE.

The student appealed, providing letters from her GP to support her appeal. The appeal was rejected at stage one because the Assessment Board decided that she had not submitted new evidence that had not previously been considered. The Board was also not satisfied that she had been unable for valid reasons to submit information before it confirmed her exit award.

The OIA was satisfied that the College’s decision was reasonable. The medical evidence was, in our view, not compelling. It did not provide a definitive statement that the student was too unwell to use the NEA process at the time, and was not evidence of a new condition.

The OIA found the case Not Justified.


Late evidence

London Business School

A student at London Business School complained to the OIA after her appeal against being withdrawn from her programme was rejected.

The student provided a note from her doctor to the appeal stating that symptoms she had described to her GP suggested that she had experienced depression from a few weeks before the examinations she had failed until shortly before the issue of the medical note, which was dated three months after the last exam. The doctor’s note did not explain why the student had been unable to engage with the School’s extenuating circumstances process.

The School rejected the appeal. The student’s legal representative wrote to the School two months later asking it to reconsider and enclosing further medical evidence. The School considered the evidence but declined to reopen the appeal.

We were satisfied that the School had properly considered the appeal, and that it reasonably concluded that the student ought to have disclosed her extenuating circumstances at the time of the examinations. We were also satisfied that, in the circumstances, it was reasonable for the School to refuse to reopen the appeal when new evidence was submitted.

The School stated that it rejected the new evidence because it was not an independent or objective medical report, but a response to a series of leading questions asked by the student’s solicitors. The School said the evidence was not genuinely compelling ‘new information’ and there were no justifiable reasons for its lateness. The OIA shared the concerns about the manner in which the information had been solicited and leading nature of the questions put to the medical professional. We concluded that the School had given thorough consideration to the new evidence and provided clear and persuasive reasons for its decision to reject it.

The OIA decided the student’s complaint was Not Justified.


Responsibility on students

Regent's University London

An overseas student at Regent’s University London was taken ill before his exams. He returned to his home country, where he was diagnosed and treated for an acute illness. During his absence he missed an examination and did not submit an extenuating circumstances claim. The Assessment Board decided that he would be required to retake the assessment for a capped mark.

On his return the student appealed this decision on the grounds of extenuating circumstances which he was unable, or for valid reasons, unwilling to divulge at the time of the assessment. His appeal was rejected. The Appeal Board noted that the student had completed treatment three days before the deadline for submitting extenuating circumstances and that it would have been open to him to submit a claim and accompanying medical evidence by e-mail.

The University’s regulations required the student to establish that he was ‘unable’ to submit his claim by the deadline. We were satisfied that it was reasonable for the University to decide that the student had not established that he was unable to meet the deadline because he did not submit any evidence to that effect. We were also satisfied that it was reasonable for the Board to conclude that the student’s absence from the UK was not a valid reason for not submitting his extenuating circumstances claim on time.

We found the student’s complaint Not Justified.