Writing your Appeals Statement
The appeal statement is the crucial part of your appeal. This is where you make the case that the decision you are appealing against should be reconsidered. It’s important to make your statement as clear and direct as possible. Our Academic Advisers can give you feedback on a draft of your appeal statement if you can submit it to us (email@example.com) a few working days in advance of your deadline (remember we need time to send you our comments and you need time to make any changes you want to, based on these).
In most cases, your appeal will be read by an Appeals Sub-Committee. This will be comprised of staff who are not from your School. For this reason, it’s important to bear in mind that the people who read your appeal statement do not have any prior knowledge of your case.
When writing your statement, bear in mind the strictness of the grounds for appeal. You must satisfy one or more of these grounds in order for your appeal to be considered, and from the University’s perspective, it is only information which relates to these grounds which is relevant to an appeal. For this reason, whenever you think of something you’d like to add to your appeal statement, ask yourself if it relates to one of the appeal grounds. If the answer is ‘no’, then it may be that the extra information serves only to distract attention away from the basis of your appeal.
This doesn’t mean that your statement has to be short. If you have a lot of relevant details to get across, don’t be afraid to explain them at length, but make sure you don’t stray off-topic.
It is important that you write clearly and arrange the information in a way that makes it easy to read. For example, using sub-headings will help make it digestible to a neutral reader who is unfamiliar with the background to the situation.
If there are several aspects to your appeal, it is usually better to separate these by theme, even if they overlap chronologically. Telling a rich story doesn’t usually translate into a good appeal statement, especially if it includes irrelevant detail. For example, if you were suffering from recurring illness and from financial hardship over the same period, it would be better to treat these two issues separately, otherwise you are likely to end up with a rambling narrative.
If an aspect of your appeal is quite complicated, it can be helpful for the reader if you present a timeline to summarise when key events took place. This will help you avoid going through too much of a detailed chronological description and will allow you to focus the main sections of your statement on arguing your case in relation to the appeal grounds. For example:
July 21st: Meeting with my supervisor to discuss final work needed on dissertation.
August 3rd: Became ill with suspected bronchitis.
August 5th: Consulted doctor and received diagnosis and medication (letter attached).
August 10th: Emailed supervisor to request extension (no reply).
August 3rd-17th: Able to work only very minimally on dissertation.
August 20th: Dissertation hand-in date (dissertation submitted).
Your timeline should help you express what happened and when it happened, but you should also remember to explain how it affected you. It is not enough to say “I had bronchitis, so I did badly in my dissertation”. Instead, give a full explanation of the way in which your illness prevented you from working as you would normally have done. For example:
I was advised against leaving my flat between 3rd and 17th August [see attachment 1], so I was unable to go to the library to do secondary reading for my dissertation. This meant that I was able to refer to only a limited range of sources, which the feedback [attachment 2] shows directly affected my mark.
Once you have collected your evidence, you need to think about how best to use this to support your case. One thing that might be a good idea is to give a letter or number to your various pieces of evidence and use this to refer to them at relevant points in your appeal statement. You can also quote directly from your evidence if this feels useful. For example:
I was unable to apply for Special Circumstances during the exam period as I was in intensive care until two weeks after the exam period had concluded. As my notes from Dr Smith state, ‘this student was in a coma from April-May this year’ (Attachment 1, p. 3).
If you include a large number of attachments, it will be helpful to provide a summary of what is included in each at the end of your appeal statement, so the reader can easily keep track of what you’ve provided and how it’s relevant.
Keep your cool
In an appeal statement, it is important to remain formal and professional. This is especially relevant where you are alleging improper conduct or irregular procedure (Ground B.) Although it is inevitable that many Ground B appeals will involve criticism of the University or its staff, this should be done in a measured and reasonable style. Avoid the use of hostile or combative language, such as:
‘’My school has acted in a disgusting manner…’
“Dr X is not fit to be teaching undergraduate students, let alone Masters students…”
Using hostile language may make you appear less reasonable, and will likely distract attention from the core material of your appeal. Take note that key staff within your School will usually see your appeal submission and be given the chance to comment on it if it is given serious consideration. It is best for your appeal case if they are able to concentrate upon exactly what you are alleging, so that they can respond as effectively as possible to the relevant facts.
Attempting to plead with the Committee or flatter them will seem like a mark of desperation. Sometimes it is tempting to beg for reconsideration on the basis of previous good performance in your studies, but keep in mind that this type of argument cannot be considered during the appeal process (which looks only at whether or not the grounds are met).
We understand that you or people close to you may face extreme hardship as a result of a negative outcome in your studies. However, the appeals committee will only consider whether or not you have demonstrated that your situation fits the grounds. In the interests of fairness, two students in identical academic circumstances should get the same outcome, regardless of whether it has minimal consequences for one and dire effects for the other.
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