Research Degree Programmes Admissions Appeals and Complaints Procedure Research Degree Programmes Admissions Appeals and Complaints Procedure

We recognise applicants may wish to ask why their application has not been successful or believe they have cause for complaint. Due to the level of competition for places there will inevitably occasions where an applicant is disappointed with our decision. To see our feedback procedure please consult the appendix.

These procedures outline the way the University of East Anglia handles appeals and complaints. These procedures do not cover our partner institutions. The appeals and complaints procedure for taught programmes can be found here.

Applicants will not be discriminated against in any further application should they make an appeal or complaint.

Appeals Procedure

An appeal is defined as request for a formal review of the outcome of an admissions decision [1]. An appeal should normally be raised in writing with the Postgraduate Research Service (pgr.enquiries.admiss@uea.ac.uk) outlining the nature and detail of the appeal.

The Postgraduate Research Service will check that all information on the application had been taken into account, that there was no misinterpretation of the information and that procedures were followed correctly.

The Postgraduate Research Service will review the application and confirm within 10 working days whether the appeal has been rejected or upheld. Applicants should note that if the appeal has been rejected on academic grounds they cannot appeal the decision.

Complaints Procedure

The following procedure exists in order that applicants rejected by the University can challenge an admissions decision if they have reason to believe that the decision was subject to procedural irregularity, prejudice or bias, or that extenuating circumstances should be, and have not already been, taken into account. The challenge would be dealt with as a form of complaint.

The Appeals and Complaints Procedure cannot be used where our decision resulted from:

  • A failure on your part to fulfil academic requirements.
  • A failure on your part to fulfil non-academic requirements. For example an unsatisfactory DBS Enhanced Disclosure or an unsatisfactory health check
  • Information from a reference from a third party, such as a provider of a work or training placement which forms an integral part of the course to which you have applied.

Stage 1 of the Complaints procedure

The initial complaint should normally be raised in writing by the applicant with the Postgraduate Research Service (by email to pgr.enquiries.admiss@uea.ac.uk or in hard copy) outlining the nature and detail of the complaint. It would be helpful to include your name, applicant number and details of the School, course or project you have applied to.

If the complaint is regarding a decision it should normally be made within 10 working days of your receipt of our communication of the decision to you. If no action has been taken by the University on your application, the complainant can write in at any time.

The relevant Postgraduate Research Service Manager or Officer will contact the complainant initially to acknowledge receipt. The University aims to respond within 15 working days of the acknowledgement. If it proves impossible to respond within 15 working days, the complainant shall be informed of the time scale for the receipt of a full response.

As part of this procedure the Postgraduate Research Service may request additional information or seek clarification by email.

When the Postgraduate Research Service responds they must confirm that the application was considered fairly and that the procedure for decision making was correctly applied. The response will explain the context in which the decision has been made. In the event that the complaint is upheld the Postgraduate Research Service will confirm this along with a proposed remedy.

Stage 2 of the Complaints procedure

The formal Admissions Complaints Procedure (Stage 2) follows the Stage 1 process. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of Stage 1, the formal process will commence.

Making a Formal Complaint

  1. Any applicant who wishes to make a formal complaint about an admissions decision shall be referred to the Postgraduate Research Service from where the Complaints Procedure will be coordinated.
  2. The applicant must write to pgr.enquiries.admiss@uea.ac.uk requesting the UEA Postgraduate Research Admissions Complaints Form. The University will not accept complaints from third party or anonymous sources.
  3. Once the form has been received by the applicant they complete and send back within 10 working days from receipt, including supporting evidence where necessary.
  4. All complaints that are received from applicants, are recorded confidentially within the Postgraduate Research Service and monitored as appropriate. As part of any investigation, information may need to be shared with other persons or organisations whilst adhering to our Data Protection policy.
  5. Failure on the part of the applicant to produce the requested documentation within a 10 working day period would result in the closure of the case by the Postgraduate Research Service.

Initial assessment of complaint

  1. On receipt of the written details from the applicant (hereafter known as the complainant) by the Postgraduate Research Service, an initial assessment of the complaint shall be made. If the matters raised by the complainant concern an academic decision then action will be taken according to paragraphs 9-11 below.  If the matters raised concern a decision relating to an applicant’s criminal conviction then action will be taken according to paragraph 12.  If the matters raised concern a decision relating to an applicant’s special educational needs then action will be taken according to paragraph 13.
  2. The Postgraduate Research Service will contact the complainant to acknowledge receipt, confirm who will be dealing with the assessment and when the complainant can expect to hear from the University. Investigations are undertaken and completed within 15 working days of the receipt. If it is not possible to complete the investigation within 15 working days, the complainant will be contacted by the University giving the reasons why and if possible, a date when the University expects the investigation to be completed by.
  3. In certain circumstances further information may be asked for by the panel to reach a decision, which may result in extending this timeframe.

Academic decisions

  1. On receipt of the written details from the applicant by the Postgraduate Research Service, an initial assessment of the complaint shall be made. The assessment will normally be conducted by a panel consisting of: the Academic Director of Research Degree Programmes; a Manager from the Postgraduate Research Service not managing the team involved in the PGR admissions decision; and an independent Chair who would be either the Director of Admissions, Recruitment and Marketing (or nominee) or the Director of Learning and Teaching Services (or nominee). An initial decision will be taken on whether the complainant has a substantive case that should be progressed through investigation.  If the initial assessment finds that there is no substantive case then the complaint should be rejected and the complainant informed of the decision with reasons for the judgment, which shall be final.
  2. If the initial assessment determines that there is a substantive case to be investigated then the University will be required to produce a written response to the complaint with supporting evidence.
  3. The University will respond to the complainant in writing with details of the findings indicating the outcome, and if the complaint is upheld, what the remedy will be. The decision will be final.

Decisions concerning criminal convictions

  1. In the case where a decision to reject an applicant has concerned a criminal conviction, a formal route exists whereby an applicant rejected following an assessment of his/her convictions can apply to the Registrar for a review on the grounds of procedural irregularity, prejudice or bias, or extenuating circumstances. The decision of the Registrar is final.

Decisions concerning disability or special educational needs

  1. In the case where the University has not been able to offer a place to an applicant following an assessment of support needs, a formal route exists whereby an applicant can apply to the Registrar for a review on the grounds of procedural irregularity, prejudice or bias, or extenuating circumstances. The decision of the Registrar is final.

Appendix: Feedback procedure for research degree applicants

The University recognises that provision of constructive feedback is an element of good customer care and will provide such feedback to applicants who have been unsuccessful in gaining an offer of a place of study on request from that applicant. Feedback on specific applications will not be offered to other parties (e.g. parents, agents or teachers) without the express consent of the applicant.

Requests for feedback must be made by the applicant in writing within three months of the date that the application was unsuccessful. The Postgraduate Research Service will endeavour to provide feedback in writing within 15 working days of receipt of a request for feedback, or inform applicants when feedback will be provided.

Feedback is usually made in the form of a standard set of text which indicates into which rejection category the applicant was placed. Additional comments about specific cases may be included, which may take the form of advice as to how to improve any future applications.

The University will not normally offer further feedback but it is at the discretion of the relevant Postgraduate Research Service Manager to decide whether to enter into further correspondence after the provision of initial feedback or to review a decision. Any decision to overturn a rejection must be made in the context of the admissions criteria applied to all other applications to that course of study.

[1] Supporting Professionalism in Admissions, Statement of Good Practice on Applicant complaints and appeals (www.spa.ac.uk/support/goodpractice/complaintsandappeals)