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With course fees now at over £9,000 per year, students and their parents expect a high standard of service from universities. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always seem to be the case.
When things go wrong, Setfords’ Higher Education team is here to provide legal support, advice and representation. We can advise students and their parents on all legal issues relating to higher education, including academic appeals, complaints, unfair practice, withdrawals from study and student discipline. Whether you have to submit an academic appeal within a short timeframe, are facing withdrawal from study or a Fitness to Practise investigation we have highly respected and experienced lawyers on your side who can support you 24/7.
We handle every aspect of higher education law including:
- Academic appeals
- Fitness to practise & Disciplinary proceedings
- Unfair practice and exam misconduct
- Withdrawal from university
- PhD complaints about supervision
- Extenuating circumstances Discrimination
- Complaints to OIA
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Our higher education law services
Whilst you are not normally allowed to appeal against ‘academic judgement’, you can usually appeal if there was something wrong with the exam paper, your marks contain a mathematical error, or you were affected by circumstances which had a negative impact on your performance (which you did not report in time for ‘good reason)’.
Good reason might be diagnosis of a significant mental health impairment, such as depression or anxiety after the assessment, in which case the university should make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ and allow you to submit your evidence late. The student will usually have a right to appeal but there may be gatekeeping process or a very small window of opportunity, in which case the student will need to act quickly and ensure the appeal clearly sets out the issues, is well argued and supported by good evidence.
These investigations happen when a student’s behaviour falls short of the behaviour required to enter their intended profession. Fitness to practise proceedings can be very worrying but must be held in accordance with the university’s processes and refer to the codes of conduct published by the awarding professional body. Because there are more regulations to be followed, the procedure will appear to be more complex and to involve more people than other student discipline cases.
Sometimes the student will be suspended and if that happens can appeal at the intervals stated in the university’s procedures. A suspension will only be able to continue if supported by an appropriate risk assessment. We are experts in student fitness to practise and will identify the issues early on, help you appeal your suspension, deal with evidential issues, help you draft an appropriate statement, guide you towards appropriate remedial action and represent you at the hearing.
Most universities have an anti-social behaviour policy of some description. Disciplinary investigations happen when a student behaves in such a way s/he breaches a policy or regulation in some way. The student must be informed in writing of the exact regulation s/he is alleged to have breached, be given a summary of the evidence against him/ her and the opportunity to put forward a defence so that the student can have a fair trial. Sometimes the case will touch upon criminal law, however, the university cannot pre-judge or interfere with a police investigation. We will look at evidence against you, help present your side of the story and ensure any penalty imposed is proportionate.
Investigations into unfair practice are common. Most offences are minor and arise from poor academic practice. Some unfair practice is considered more serious such as taking notes or a mobile phone into an exam, colluding or using online services to write your assessments. Plagiarism is always dealt with seriously if it is a second or subsequent offence or takes place within an examination setting. Presenting your case in the right way can lead to a lesser penalty.
Universities rely on plagiarism software such as Turnitin to score similarity. It is important to understand Turnitin is a guide only and some level of human intervention is necessary to gauge the exact similarity. A high Turnitin score is not necessarily evidence the work has been plagiarised to high degree. We are experts in interpreting Turnitin scores and can help you if you are facing such an investigation.
Withdrawal from study can happen if a student chooses to leave University. It can also happen when a student does not wish to leave for example as result of the student failing too many modules or a repeat year, a PhD student not getting satisfactory supervision, poor attendance whilst the student was suffering from depression and or because of a disciplinary matter. A student is entitled to appeal a withdrawal decision and the university will have processes for hearing the appeal.
A student has the right to appeal any decision imposed upon them if they feel important factors about their health, wellbeing or personal circumstances were overlooked. We are always happy to have an informal discussion or meeting without obligation so that you can be sure you are making the right decision in seeking our help and support.
If you would like to discuss your requirements in more detail please contact us on 0330 058 4011 or