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Academic appeal: postgraduate - CS082006

A student disagreed with the decision to award them a Master’s degree, rather than a PhD.

The student complained that when they had submitted a thesis for the second time, and had attended a second viva, the examiners had questioned them about parts of the thesis that they had not mentioned in their feedback on the first submission. The student argued that they had only been advised to make minor changes to their resubmitted thesis, and also complained about the conduct of the viva examination.

The provider acknowledged that the viva had been stressful for the student, and that the questioning had been intensive and focused on weaker aspects of the thesis. The provider decided that the outcome of the examination would not have been altered by these factors because the written submission did not address the examiner’s comments from the first exam. The student complained to us.

We were satisfied that the provider had reviewed those parts of the appeal which were not a challenge to its academic judgment. The student’s view that they only had to make minor changes to the thesis before the second submission was not supported by the evidence; the examiners’ comments had referred to a substantial reworking of the thesis. We did not uphold these parts of the student’s complaint. But we thought that the provider could have apologised for the distress caused at the viva, and should also have addressed a long delay before the student received their results. We decided that the complaint was Partly Justified and that the provider should offer the student an apology and a small sum in compensation.