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Academic appeals for coursework students

What is an appeal?

The University of Sydney provides all enrolled students with an internal process for appealing decisions made by the University. There are 3 escalating stages in the academic appeal process:

  • resolution with the original decision-maker
  • application for review by the faculty or Academic Panel
  • appeal to the Student Appeals Body (SAB).

More information

Clear advice on each appeals stage can be found on the University’s academic appeals pages.

Common appeals include:

  • a mark for an essay or exam
  • the overall mark for a unit of study
  • a fail grade or removal from a placement
  • a finding of plagiarism or misconduct
  • a decline of a special consideration or special arrangements application
  • a decline of credit for previous study application
  • a decision to impose conditions or restrictions on your re-enrolment after you are asked to Show Good Cause
  • a decision not to re-admit or re-enrol you following exclusion from your award course
  • a decision to terminate your candidature, if you are completing a postgraduate award.

Your appeal must identify your concerns with the decision, or lack of due process. You need to clearly explain how the decision failed to properly follow one or more University of Sydney policies or procedures, e.g., an essay marked without following the published marking criteria.

Examples of when you would not have strong reasons to appeal include:

  • receiving a poor mark or grade alone
  • working hard and unexpectedly failing
  • not being given a simple extension (up to 2 working day extensions, at the discretion of your unit coordinator).

It may be difficult to appeal an academic’s judgment, expertise, or discretionary powers. For example, appealing a failed placement where your supervisor assessed your performance as inadequate, as your supervisor used their expertise to make the decision. If you fail a placement and are not satisfied with the feedback you receive, you can contact us for advice.

Sometimes what you are disputing might constitute a non-academic complaint rather than an appeal. An academic appeal is a process to challenge an academic decision or a breach in due process in making an academic decision. A complaint, on the other hand, is a way to raise an issue with the faculty or the University over matters such as discrimination, harassment or bullying, or about the quality of teaching or assessment. For more details about these important differences read our article Appeal or complaint? and our article Making a complaint.

Useful tips

  • Use email rather than phone calls or face-to-face conversations so that you have written documentation.
  • If you have a face-to-face meeting, send an email summary of what you discussed as confirmation.
  • Read your unit of study outline at the beginning of the semester so you understand the content and assessments, late penalties, and whether your unit coordinator will allow simple extensions.
  • Make sure you receive sufficient feedback on each assessment task as you progress towards the final assessment of a unit.

Stage 1 – Informal resolution

If you disagree with or want to understand more about an academic decision, the first step is to make an appeal directly to the person who made the academic decision. If your appeal is about special consideration, special arrangements, credit or mobility academic decisions, you must communicate with a representative from Student Administration Services.

A few points to remember:

  • You have 15 working days to make your appeal – starting from the date of the decision or release of result (working days do not include weekends, public holidays or the University shut-down period).
  • Some faculties require a written appeal, others arrange a meeting to discuss your concerns. Always get the response to your appeal in writing. If you have a meeting, ask for the outcome to be emailed to you after your meeting.
  • If you are appealing an exam, you should review your exam script before making your appeal (see below).

For special consideration and special arrangements: you must communicate your concerns to the Student Administration Services team that communicated the original decision to you. This communication must be initiated by you within 15 working days of receiving the outcome of your application.

Requests for further feedback

Informal resolutions are often ways for students to request further feedback about an academic decision, such as a grade. Most unit coordinators are happy to give further feedback but are unlikely to change a mark or grade without being presented with strong reasons.

Review your exam paper

If you want to appeal an exam you should review the exam paper before contacting your unit coordinator. The faculty will schedule exam review times, but if you miss these you may email your unit coordinator to request a review of your exam paper, as long as you make the request within 15 working days of the release of your result. Late requests may be granted by the associate dean, at their discretion.

The University’s reply

The relevant decision-maker must respond within 10 working days of receiving your informal appeal. Their response will either confirm the original academic decision or amend the decision in writing. You will also receive a clear explanation of the reasons for the decision.

If you do not receive a response within 10 workings days, you may proceed to the next level of appeal and submit an application for review. Working days do not include weekends, public holidays, or the University shut-down period.

For final exams/assessments you may not be able to receive a response by your unit coordinator before staff go on holiday or the University closes for the summer break. The important thing is to email your unit coordinator within 15 working days of the decision, as this ensures your appeal is submitted in time regardless of when you receive a response.

Stage 2 – Applications for review

If your concerns are not resolved, or you believe there was a failure to follow due process, you may submit an online application for review and include your reasons for the review and any support documentation.

Your application must be submitted within 20 working days from the date you received the outcome of your informal appeal. Your application letter should carefully explain your reasons for appealing the academic decision and clearly explain any breaches in due process.

The faculty or Student Administrative Services will acknowledge receipt of your application within 3 working days.

The review will consider all relevant information. You should receive a decision within 15 working days from receipt of your application, or you will be informed of the reasons for the delay and be given an estimate of how long your review will take.

If you would like help writing your application for review, please contact us.

Find full directions on how to submit an application for review on the University website.

What happens if I submit my application late?

If you are late in submitting an application for review, the associate dean may grant an extension. If you are late, contact us for help to prepare a late application, which should include an explanation for why you are late.

Stage 3 – Appeal to Student Appeals Body (SAB)

If you believe a decision made by a faculty or academic panel was not based on merit, procedurally fair, or made in accordance with all relevant University policies and procedures, local provisions and rules, you may appeal to the Student Appeals Body (SAB).

You must submit your written appeal online within 15 working days of receiving an outcome from your review. If you are late, the Director of Compliance and Student Affairs may extend at their absolute discretion.

For your SAB appeal:

  • Your appeal letter needs to clearly explain your reasons for believing a decision was not made fairly, or that there was a breach of due process, policy and
  • You must submit all relevant documentation to support your claims in your appeal.

After you submit your appeal:

Your appeal will be reviewed by the SAB and they may grant you a hearing if they believe your reasons for appeal meet the eligibility requirements.

If you are not granted a hearing, you may apply for a review of the decision within 10 working days of receiving the outcome. Your review must be submitted in writing and must clearly outline your reasons for believing the decision was not made in accordance with clause 1.6 of the Student Appeals Rule.

Appeal hearings

The SAB will notify you, your faculty, Academic Panel or relevant HDR examination committee with at least 10 working days’ notice of the date, time and location of your hearing. You have the right to bring a support person to your hearing – this may include a caseworker from SUPRA.

The SAB will provide you with a copy of the written response to your appeal within 5 working days prior to your scheduled hearing.

We strongly recommend you contact us for advice on preparing for your appeal hearing.

Hearing outcome

A decision is reached by the SAB panel on a simple majority. Your appeal may be upheld or dismissed. If your appeal is upheld, the SAB may: refer the decision back to your faculty, Academic Panel or HDR examination committee; make a new decision; or determine no further action will be taken.

If your appeal is dismissed, the decision from your faculty, Academic Panel or HDR examination committee will stand.

You will receive a decision within 20 working days of your hearing. If there is a delay you will be notified.

Information and advice on how to submit your SAB appeal is on the University website.

What if my academic appeal is still not resolved?

One external complaint option is to contact the NSW Ombudsman. For local students, recommendations by the NSW Ombudsman are non-binding on the University, but you can usually expect them to be followed. For international students, federal government requirements mean the University is obliged to implement any decision or corrective action the NSW Ombudsman recommends.

The Ombudsman will only investigate complaints on limited types of conduct.

Other appeals

Visit the University’s student appeals website for further information.

Policies

Need more help?

Our  casework and legal services are here for you.

Postgraduate Advocacy Service

Postgraduate Advocacy and Policy Officers can help with any problems you face while you study at Usyd, from academic appeals to renting.

SUPRA Legal Service

SUPRA Legal Service employs solicitors who can assist with a wide range of legal issues, including visas and migration law.