Iain Cupples is our full-time Education Advocate, providing free advice and support to students who have a problem with the University. This includes academic alerts, appeals, and misconduct cases. Iain can also help with non-academic discipline cases, and in making complaints to the University. Support is independent, confidential, and non-directive.
Contact Iain via HelpHub@, 01334 46 2700, or by making an appointment at Union reception.
Every student, except for those studying Medicine, has an Adviser of studies. They approve your module choices each year, as part of a compulsory meeting during matriculation. They are also available for consultation on academic issues throughout the semester, where they can highlight various degree options and explain academic regulations. Find your Adviser's contact information through the online advising system.
Changing your degree
The degree structure at St Andrews is designed to be flexible, making it possible to change your mind about the final degree outcome. Nonetheless, limits do exist, and you can't undertake a degree programme if you do not have the qualifications required for the programme's compulsory modules.
Upon accepting a formal offer of admission to a programme, you are committed to study it for at least one academic year. However, if you decide to change degree during your first year, you can often take the required modules for your new intended degree in that same year.
After the first year of study is complete, your Adviser of studies can approve a change to a different degree programme within the same Faculty. If you wish to transfer to a degree that is only available in a different Faculty, you will need to gain approval from the Pro Dean (Advising) of the Faculty to which you want to transfer.
Check the University's policy and information page on changes to studies.
Coursework deadline extensions are only granted when your ability to complete coursework has been significantly affected by extenuating circumstances, such as an illness or bereavement. To request an extension, contact the relevant course or module coordinator as soon as it is possible to do so, and submit a self-certificate documenting the circumstances.
You may be asked to see someone at Student Services before the extension is granted. Student Services can inform the School of any adverse situations affecting you, but they cannot request that a School grants an extension.
More information can be found on the University's website.
Failing a module
Reassessment of a module is possible if your original grade is 4.0 or higher, but below the pass threshold of 7.0. Details of a module's specific reassessment process are outlined in the course catalogue.
Reassessment is typically not available for modules assessed solely by coursework. For Honours and Masters modules, the reassessment grade is capped at 7.0. If you fail a module reassessment, you are not eligible for any further reassessment, though it may be possible to take the module again. More information can be found on the University's reassessment page.
See also: the University's examinations page.
Leave of absence
A leave of absence is a period of time during which you are away from University, and your studies are on hold. In order to take leave of absence you must apply to the Registry Officer; however, approval is not guaranteed. Any modules taken in the semester in which you are granted leave of absence are removed from your record. Periods while you are on leave of absence are not counted when applying regulations regarding semesters of study.
To return to your studies from a leave of absence, you must complete the University’s re-engagement process.
Check the University's leave of absence policy, and changes to your studies page.
The University doesn’t provide specific additional tuition. It’s worth speaking to your School or Student Services, as they may know a PhD student who would be willing to provide extra tuition at your cost. Students with a disability or learning difficulty may be entitled to additional tuition, which can be arranged through Student Services.
CEED provides many types of support for students, including:
The University maintains an independent appeals process that students can use when they feel they have unfairly had their essay or exam graded, their studies terminated, or their permission to proceed revoked. The first step is to reach out to your Head of School. To help students out with this process, the Students’ Association employs a full-time Education Advocate to support students directly.
If you are facing disciplinary proceedings from the University, we are here to help. The discipline procedures can be confusing, as they often take a quasi-legal approach. We can help you through the process, including during the preparation of defence.
Academic alerts come to students in the form of an email from your module coordinator. They can seem quite scary, but they’re meant to be supportive signposts for the faculty to highlight a problem, like missing a deadline or tutorial, while remedies may still be available. If you receive one, respond to the email and talk to your Module Coordinator. Information on Tier 4 visa compliance can be found on the University's compliance page.
If you’re considering making an academic appeal, we can give you independent and student-centred advice. Contact Iain, our Education Advocate, via HelpHub@, 01334 46 2700, or by booking an appointment at Union reception, to have a confidential chat about your options. You’re not committing to anything by talking to us about a potential appeal: it’s always up to you whether to go ahead.
If you are worried or unhappy with a mark for a piece of work, you should always talk to someone in your School before making an academic appeal. They can give feedback and explain why the mark was given.
Feedback can be very important in understanding not only your strengths and weaknesses, but also whether or not you have any basis on which to make an appeal. Seeking feedback lets teaching staff address your concerns informally, which tends to be quicker and easier for students than making a formal appeal.
You can’t appeal an academic decision just because you’re unhappy or disagree with it. You have to show that you have grounds for appeal. There are two possible grounds for appeal; you must show that at least one, if not both, apply in your case.
1) Extenuating personal circumstances
You can appeal on this ground if you think your marks were affected by a personal problem. This might be illness, stress, family crisis, or anything else that has affected your academic performance.
However, this has to be something that the University didn’t know about, and hasn’t already taken into account. For example, if you get a deadline extension on an essay because you’re ill, you can’t use that illness as the basis for a subsequent appeal.
Furthermore, if you have personal circumstances that the University didn’t know about, you will need to explain why you didn’t tell someone in the University earlier. For example, if you’re ill on the day of an exam or class test, you’re normally expected to tell a member of staff at the time, or self-certify. If you didn’t do this and can’t give a good reason why, the University won’t allow the appeal.
It’s very important to tell the University about any problems as soon as they happen. The University has a range of ways they can take problems into account to support you. You can talk to someone in Student Services in confidence if you’re not comfortable telling teaching staff. Don’t try to cope alone; tell someone!
The problem must be something that affects you academically. The University may be sympathetic to personal problems, but if you can’t explain why it harmed your ability to attend classes or study well, they won’t allow the appeal.
A good example of "extenuating personal circumstances" would be if you are diagnosed with depression after taking exams or completing coursework. Many of the symptoms of depression, such as sleeping problems, might affect your academic performance or ability to hand work in on time. Of course, you couldn’t have told the University about the diagnosis until it was made.
2) Improper conduct of an assessment or examination, or irregular application of academic regulations
You might think of this as covering "University error". This ground comes down to whether there has been a mistake by academic staff:
- In setting, marking, or running an exam, class test, essay, or other marked work
- When taking an academic decision on your progression or continuation of studies
It can be hard to understand if this ground might apply. If you’re considering an appeal on this ground, we recommend that you contact our Education Advocate for advice. Some examples of when this ground might apply are:
- The University agreed to provide your exam papers in an alternative format, but this didn’t happen in the way that was agreed.
- Your essay mark is low because a late penalty has been applied incorrectly.
- Your grade for a group assignment has been calculated incorrectly.
- A class test didn’t start on time, and you weren't given time at the end to compensate.
Crucially, you need to show that the problem affected your result, and isn’t just a technicality or trivial mistake. For example, if a test starts late but you are given extra time to compensate, it probably won't affect your performance.
Making an appeal
You should normally send an appeal to the Head of School. Note that some Schools also have a Head of Department, which is not the same.
Some appeals cannot be sent to the Head of School. This includes termination of studies, or appeals after your final degree classification is known. In these cases, you should be told how to make an appeal when notified of the decision. If not, contact HelpHub@ for advice.
Whoever you direct it to, this first appeal is called a stage 1 appeal. You should use the form available on the University's appeals page to make such an appeal. You can ask our Education Advocate (HelpHub@) to give advice or comments on a completed form before submitting it.
Some things to remember when completing the form:
- Make sure you tick at least one of the boxes identifying the grounds for the appeal.
- The form asks for a "concise summary of your concerns". This needs to be short, but if your case is particularly complicated or you want to write more, you can include a more detailed account of the case as accompanying evidence.
- This summary must include all the key information and dates. For example, if you’re appealing on the grounds of extenuating circumstances, it must include an explanation of why the University was not told sooner.
- The form asks about your desired outcome. It’s best to check what can and can’t be done before answering this question. Contact us via HelpHub@ if you need advice about this.
- You can send as much or as little accompanying evidence as you like, but our advice is usually to include as much as possible.
The person handling your appeal should contact you within 10 working days, explaining what they are going to do. They could decide to uphold, uphold with conditions, or reject the appeal. They may also refer the appeal for someone else to make a decision.
If your appeal is rejected
If you are unhappy with the conclusion of a stage 1 appeal, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Senate, the governing academic body of the University. This is called a stage 2 appeal, and is the final step in the appeals process.
We strongly advise that you contact our Education Advocate (HelpHub@) before making a stage 2 appeal.
The people who deal with a stage 2 appeal will be members of the Senate from outside your School, with no previous involvement in the case. They will include appropriately trained student representatives, as well as academic staff.
You normally need to express your intention to make a stage 2 appeal within 10 working days (two weeks) of being told the result of your stage 1 appeal. You should use the form available on the University's appeals page to make a stage 2 appeal.
Unlike the Stage 1 form, you have a further 10 working days to add information to this form, if needed. This information might include medical certificates, or other evidence to confirm the circumstances described in your appeal. However, you should only use this extra time for information you really can't get before the deadline.
Note that if any of your supporting evidence is in a language other than English, you must supply a certified translation. This could take some time, so you may need to send this kind of evidence after the initial form.
On the basis of your stage 2 form and any accompanying evidence you’ve sent with it, one member of staff and one student representative will assess the appeal. They will make one of the following decisions:
- Reject the appeal. This ends the University’s consideration of the case, but see the section on the SPSO below.
- Refer the appeal back to the Head of School, or whoever else dealt with it at stage 1, with a recommendation for action. This normally happens where the Senate Assessors believe the appeal can be sorted out simply, perhaps because new information has been brought forward that would have changed the outcome of the stage 1 appeal.
- Allow the appeal to be heard by the Senate Appeal Panel.
If the University decides to hear the appeal, they will contact you to arrange a hearing date, at which the case will be decided. Before the hearing is held, you’ll be given a chance to add to the written evidence included in your stage 2 form. The Senate Office will also write to the School, asking them to submit any written evidence they would like to have considered. You will be sent a copy of all written evidence before the hearing.
Make sure your own submission contains all the information you need. The School can choose what to include in their submission; don't assume the School will include all information they have on the case. If necessary, you may be able to get information under data protection legislation.
At a stage 2 hearing, the case is heard by a panel of three or four people, including one student representative, who will take a final decision on the case. The School will send a representative to explain why they think the decision at stage 1 was correct.
You can also attend, and explain why you think the decision at stage 1 was incorrect. The panel will listen to the arguments, ask questions to either side, and consider the written evidence submitted by both sides, before coming to a conclusion. They will write to you after the meeting to inform you of their decision. As at stage 1, they may decide to uphold the appeal with or without conditions, or reject it.
Note that you can usually ask questions of the School representative too, so consider whether there’s anything about the case you don’t yet know and want to find out.
You can choose to be accompanied to the hearing. Or if you’re unable to attend, you can send someone in your place. The person accompanying or representing you must be a student at the University, or a member of staff at the University or Students’ Association. Our Education Advocate attends many of these meetings, and is usually the best person to fill this role, but it’s up to you to decide who you want to do this, if anyone
The hearing is the final stage of consideration by the University, so it’s important that you take advice and prepare for it properly.
You can contact the Senate office via senate@ or 01334 462005.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)
When you get the result of the Senate hearing, you might still be unhappy with how the University has handled your case. If so, you can write to the SPSO asking for an external review. You will be given details of how to do this in the outcome letter.
The SPSO will look at how the University dealt with your case; if they think it wasn’t handled correctly or properly, they will recommend ways in which the University should improve its procedures. The SPSO is not a route of appeal against University decisions, but the Ombudsman can consider whether the University has dealt fairly with your case in line with its procedures.
Note that the SPSO won’t usually consider requests to review a case unless you have first been through the full internal appeals process.
You can contact the SPSO via spso.org.uk or 0800 377 7330.