skip to content

Student Complaints

As a matter of general principle and applicability, the University’s complaint and review procedures do not cover or encompass complaints to the extent that they relate distinctly and manifestly – to matters of Academic Judgment; in short, the procedures cannot interfere with the ordinary and conventional operation of academic judgment. This position corresponds in principle to that adopted by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) with regard to its reviews of student complaints (OIA Rule 3.2).

Academic Judgment is a term used in Part 2 of the Higher Education Act 2004 (‘Review of student complaints, 12: Qualifying complaints’). It has been defined as ‘the professional and scholarly knowledge and expertise which members of University staff and external examiners draw upon in reaching an academic decision’. In the view of the OIA, ‘academic judgment is not any judgment made by an academic; it is a judgment made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic will suffice’. It therefore includes, but is not restricted to, decisions about academic standard attained, marks and grades to be assigned, and degrees/degree classifications to be awarded, etc. The OIA’s glossary entry for ‘Academic Judgment’ provides a useful explication:

Academic judgment is a judgment that is made about a matter where only the opinion of an academic expert is sufficient.  A decision about assessment, a degree classification, fitness to practise, research methodology or course content/outcomes will normally involve academic judgment. The following areas do not involve academic judgment: decisions about the fairness of procedures, whether they have been correctly interpreted, what the facts are, how a provider has communicated with the student, whether an opinion has been expressed outside the area of an academic's competence, the way the evidence has been considered, whether there is evidence of bias or maladministration.

Complaints about academic judgments per se are therefore likely to be ordinarily or routinely dismissed, or otherwise deemed disqualified or ineligible for consideration under the University’s formal complaint, review and appeal procedures. There is some provision, under the University’s review regulations for the conduct, outcome or results of examinations, for representations to be made about an examination and the circumstances which may have led to an academic judgment being made - that is, where there is demonstrable or substantive evidence that the decision-making or judgment may be flawed or unreliable due to procedural irregularity, or due to prejudice, bias or inadequate assessment.