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Review of the results of examinations for postgraduate qualifications: Notice by the Board of Graduate Studies

The Board of Graduate Studies have recently reviewed the regulations for the review of the results of examinations for postgraduate qualifications (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 429) with a view to expediting the existing process and to allow the Board themselves to resolve complaints at an early stage.

The regulations have accordingly been amended so that representations should be received no later than three months, rather than six months, after the date on which the result of the examination was communicated by the Secretary of the Board to the candidate. This time period is the same as that allowed for representations under the student complaints procedure (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 209). The grounds under which a complaint may be considered are also clearly stated in the revised regulations. Under the current regulations, if the Board are not satisfied that an examination was properly conducted they are required to refer any representations made directly to a Review Committee. The revised regulations allow the Board to determine the outcome of any representation and allow the candidate to reject any of these outcomes - at which stage the complaint will be referred to a Review Committee. The definition of the term 'examination' is also clearly stated in the revised regulations.

On the recommendation of the Board of Graduate Studies the Council has agreed to submit a Grace (Grace 1, p. 986) to the Regent House for the approval of revised regulations for the review of the results of examinations for postgraduate qualifications as set out in the Annex to this Notice.

ANNEX

REVIEW OF THE RESULTS OF EXAMINATIONS FOR POSTGRADUATE QUALIFICATIONS

1. The following regulations shall apply to any University examination listed in the Schedule to these regulations, and shall be limited to those cases where the candidate has failed to be approved for the qualification for which he or she was examined.

2. The Board of Graduate Studies shall have power, in connection with any examination for a degree or other qualification, to remit a recommendation or resolution received from a Degree Committee concerning a particular candidate to the Degree Committee for further consideration. The Degree Committee may recommend a course of action as a consequence of any such remission but the power to determine the action to be taken lies with the Board of Graduate Studies and not with the Degree Committee

3. The Board shall consider any representations made by or on behalf of a candidate which constitute a complaint about the conduct of the examination in that candidate's case, provided that such representations shall not be considered unless they are received by the Secretary of the Board not later than three months after the date on which the result of the examination was communicated by the Secretary to the candidate. The Board shall consider the representations which in the judgment of the Board constitute a complaint on one or more of the following grounds:

(a) that there existed material circumstances relating directly to the examination (excluding circumstances relating to the candidate's course of research or course of study) of which the Examiners were not aware;
(b) that procedural irregularities occurred in the conduct of the examination, which were of such a nature as to cause reasonable doubt as to whether the Examiners would have reached the same conclusion had the irregularities not occurred;
(c) tthat there is demonstrable evidence of prejudice, bias, or inadequate assessment in the examination process.

If the Board are of the view that a complaint does not fall within any of the grounds specified above, they shall dismiss the complaint and shall inform the complainant accordingly.

The Board shall consult the Degree Committee concerned under Regulation 2 about any representations made under this regulation.

4. If after considering any views expressed by the relevant Degree Committee under Regulation 2 and any representations made by or on behalf of a candidate under Regulation 3:

(a) the Board are satisfied that the examination of that candidate was properly conducted and that the complaint is unjustified, the Board shall so inform the candidate; or
(b) if the Board are satisfied that the examination of that candidate was not properly conducted and that the complaint is justified, they shall have power, after consulting the Degree Committee concerned, the Examiners concerned, and any other persons or body specified by the Board:
 (i) to require the Examiners to re-examine the candidate;
 (ii) if the candidate has not been examined orally, to require the Examiners to hold an oral examination;
 (iii) if the candidate has been examined orally, to require the Examiners to hold a further oral examination;
 (iv) to permit the candidate to submit a revised dissertation, thesis, or other exercise, to be examined by the same Examiners;
 (v) to require the Degree Committee to appoint one or more additional Examiners to make an independent report or reports on the work submitted by the candidate;
 (vi) to require the Degree Committee to appoint new Examiners to replace the Examiners previously appointed, and to permit the candidate
  either (A) to be re-examined by the new Examiners,
  or (B) to submit a revised dissertation, thesis, or other exercise, to be examined by the new Examiners;
 (vii) to require the Examiners (either the Examiners previously appointed or new Examiners appointed under sub-paragraph (vi), as the case may be) to set fresh examination papers or other exercises, as appropriate, to be taken by the candidate under arrangements specified by the Board.

5. If, after the candidate has been informed of a decision taken by the Board of Graduate Studies the candidate, or a person acting on the candidate's behalf, makes representations challenging the Board's decision under Regulation 4(a) or rejecting one or more of the remedial steps determined by the Board under Regulation 4(b)(i) to (vii), then the Board shall refer such representations to a Review Committee constituted in accordance with Regulation 6, provided that those representations are received by the Secretary of the Board within three months of the date on which the Board's decision was communicated by the Secretary to the candidate. For the avoidance of doubt representations received after this period has expired shall not be considered.

6. A Review Committee appointed under these regulations shall consist of

(a) the Vice-Chancellor, or a duly appointed deputy, as Chairman;
(b) two persons appointed by the General Board.

The General Board shall maintain a panel of members of the Regent House who are willing to serve as members of a Review Committee, and shall appoint twelve persons to the panel, four persons being appointed in the Michaelmas Term of each year to serve for three years from 1 January following their appointment. When any representations are to be referred by the Board of Graduate Studies to a Review Committee, the General Board shall appoint two members of the panel to serve as members of the Review Committee for the particular case. In selecting members of the panel for appointment as members of a Review Committee, the Board shall exclude any person who has been involved in the particular case at an earlier stage. A person appointed a member of a Review Committee shall serve until the conclusion of the particular case for which he or she was appointed.

7. The Academic Secretary, or a deputy appointed by the Academic Secretary, shall act as Secretary to a Review Committee.

8. For the purpose of these regulations the term 'complainant' shall mean the student making a complaint, or on whose behalf a complaint is made.

9. The Secretary to the Review Committee shall notify the complainant of the persons appointed to be members of the Committee. The complainant shall be entitled to object for good cause to any member so appointed. The Vice-Chancellor shall rule on any such objection, and her or his decision shall be final. If the Vice-Chancellor allows such an objection, the General Board shall appoint another member of the panel to serve as a member of the Committee.

10. The Review Committee shall consider the representations made or referred to them under these Regulations which in the judgement of the Committee constitute a complaint on one or more of the following grounds:

(a) that there existed material circumstances relating directly to the examination (excluding circumstances relating to the candidate's course of research or course of study) of which the Examiners were not aware;
(b) that procedural irregularities occurred in the conduct of the examination, which were of such a nature as to cause reasonable doubt as to whether the Examiners would have reached the same conclusion had the irregularities not occurred;
(c) that there is demonstrable evidence of prejudice, bias, or inadequate assessment in the examination process.

If the Committee are of the view that a complaint does not fall within any of the grounds specified above, they shall dismiss the complaint and shall inform the complainant and the Board of Graduate Studies accordingly. For the purposes of these regulations the term 'examination' relates to the assessment of the candidate's performance by the original or any subsequently appointed Examiners and not to any consideration of the case by the relevant Degree Committee or the Board of Graduate Studies.

11. Any representation considered by a Review Committee to fall within any of the grounds specified in Regulation 10 shall be made available to each of the following:

(a) the Board of Graduate Studies;
(b) the Degree Committee concerned;
(c) the Examiners concerned;
(d) any other person or body specified by the Review Committee.

Each of these parties shall be given an opportunity to submit a written statement to the Committee in response to the complaint. Such a statement may include reports of the Examiners or extracts from those reports. The Committee shall have power to seek statements from other persons or bodies, as they think fit.

12. Any statement submitted to the Review Committee under Regulation 11 shall be made available to the complainant and to the other parties specified in that regulation, each of whom shall be afforded an opportunity to comment on it.

13. Once the Review Committee have received the comments specified in Regulation 12, they shall appoint a day and time for a hearing at which the complainant shall be entitled to be present and to be accompanied by not more than two advisers, each of whom shall be either an officer of the Graduate Union, a sabbatical officer of Cambridge University Students' Union, or a member of the Regent House; one of these advisers shall be permitted to act as the complainant's representative and to speak on her or his behalf.

14. A Review Committee shall consider any complaint or any representations referred to them under Regulation 4(b)(viii) or Regulation 5 and shall have power to dismiss the complaint or, if they consider it justified:

(a) to require the Board of Graduate Studies or the Degree Committee concerned to reconsider their earlier decisions on the particular case;
(b) to require the Examiners to re-examine the candidate;
(c) if the candidate has not been examined orally, to require the Examiners to hold an oral examination;
(d) if the candidate has been examined orally, to require the Examiners to hold a further oral examination;
(e) to permit the candidate to submit a revised dissertation, thesis, or other exercise, to be examined by the same Examiners;
(f) to require the Degree Committee to appoint one or more additional Examiners to make an independent report or reports on the work submitted by the candidate;
(g) to require the Degree Committee to appoint new Examiners to replace the Examiners previously appointed, and to permit the candidate
 either (i) to be re-examined by the new Examiners,
 or (ii)) to submit a revised dissertation, thesis, or other exercise, to be examined by the new Examiners;
(h) to require the Examiners (either the Examiners previously appointed or new Examiners appointed under sub-paragraph (g), as the case may be) to set fresh examination papers or other exercises, as appropriate, to be taken by the candidate under arrangements specified by the Review Committee.

15. The Secretary to the Review Committee shall send written notification of the Committee's decision and the reasons for it to the complainant and to the other parties specified in Regulation 11.

16. The decision of a Review Committee on any particular case shall be final. No person who applies for a review under the review procedure established by these regulations shall be entitled also for review of the same matter under the procedure for determining complaints by members of the University in statu pupillari established under the regulation for complaints by students (p. 209).

SCHEDULE

Examinations for which the foregoing regulations apply

B.D. Degree M.Phil. Degree
Vet.M.D. Degree M.St. Degree
Ph.D. Degree Certificate of Postgraduate Study
Ph.D. Degree by special regulations Diplomas in:
Eng.D. Degree      Economics
M.Sc. Degree      Legal Studies
M.Litt. Degree      International Law
M.Res. Degree 

Note: Any subsequent review would normally be by the national Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, or exceptionally, if relevant some other University review (for example by the Commissary under Statute D, V and the rules of procedure (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 102)) or under Statute K, 5.


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Cambridge University Reporter 15 July 2009
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.