Fitness to Study Appeal

This article is for Fitness to Study processes and is intended as a helpful guide that should be read alongside the Fitness to Study Policy, for related processes see Disciplinary, Fitness to Practise, Extensions, Extenuating Circumstances, leave of absence or Withdrawals


If you have been suspended or withdrawn as the result of a Fitness to Study concern and you wish to challenge this you may be able to appeal if you are Eligible.

If you have been suspended or withdrawn as a result of a Disciplinary, Fitness to Practise, or due to fails in academic assessments then you will need to consider those procedures own appeal processes.

Whilst the fitness to study procedures do not outline a specific deadline by which the appeal should reach the university, or who it should reach, we recommend submitting an appeal within 10 working days of the outcome being received and suggest submitting it to the university contact who informed you in writing of the outcome.

Appeal or complaint
You can only appeal suspensions or withdrawals. If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of fitness to study concerns you may wish to raise a formal complaint within 3 months; although we recommend acting sooner.

Appeals likely to be considered
include situations where you meet one or more of the following grounds to appeal;

  • Circumstances not known at the time
    • Which are significant enough to have an impact on the decision, and there is good reason why this was not known or evidenced at the time
  • The decision is factually incorrect
    • meaning, the decision, or information that lead to it, is factually incorrect and significantly so as to have an impact on the decision. You should evidence the factual inaccuracies.
  • Procedures were not followed
    • and this led to a material impact on the process and/or outcome (this is sometimes known as material procedural irregularity)

You will need to evidence your appeal to demonstrate you have valid grounds.

Drafting your Appeal
There is no form to complete; rather you will need to write to the university contact who informed you in writing of the outcome.
You don’t need to get your appeal perfect straight away- it is normally easier to correct/delete/add points from a rough draft than it is to try it write it perfect the first time.

You should consider grounds you are appealing on and try to build the strongest case and the strongest evidence to substantiate your appeal. Speak to Sunderland Students’ Union advisor to help you review your drafts to see what you could do to strengthen your claim.

  • Be concise; this doesn’t mean it has to be short, just avoid covering a point several times and keep the phrasing simple
  • Try not to be emotive in your language; it is important the reader can see the facts of your case. Phrases like “please, I’ve worked so hard this year and would be devastated if this stops me getting my degree” does not add any factual points to your claim and is likely to make your claim longer than it needs to be
  • Find ways to break up information into bite sized chunks with bullet points, timelines, shorter paragraphs, headers etc
  • Any Evidence that is from an independent source, from a professional individual or service, is more likely to help your claim.

Evidence likely to be helpful

  • GP letter or other medical letters from specialist medical staff
  • Letters from your tutors
  • Death Certificates
  • Letters from professionals; solicitors, counsellors, social workers
  • Legal Paperwork
  • Police documentation
  • Copies or weblinks to policies or procedures for claims of procedural irregularity (highlight specific pages/clauses/paragraphs you believe are of significance)
  • Copies of correspondence, screen shots, photos, which rebuke claims made against you

False evidence or a false application for Extenuating Circumstances is an offence under both academic and disciplinary regulations and may lead to expulsion from the University.

When to submit a claim
Whilst the fitness to study procedures do not outline a specific deadline by which the appeal should reach the university, or who it should reach, we recommend submitting an appeal within 10 working days of the outcome being received

Where to send your claim
We recommend submitting your appeal via email to the university contact who informed you of the outcome.

Who reviews appeals
For appeals against suspensions of expulsions a Fitness to Study Appeals Panel will include;

  • A member of the University Executive team as chair of the committee
    • Who did not make the original decision
  • A senior member of the university
    • Who has no previous involvement in the case
  • A president of the students’ union

Notice of the Panel meeting
There is no prescribed timescale in regulations which the committee must be arranged but we believe the university will always endeavour to arrange a meeting at the earliest opportunity.

When you are invited to meet the committee you will be contacted in writing and will receive at least 10 working days’ notice of the hearing. You will receive any evidence the panel have at least 5 working days before the panel.

Failure to attend
We recommend that you engage with the panel as much as possible. If you fail to attend the panel may proceed without you present.

If you are struggling with attendance you could ask if the panel will consider re-arranging the meeting, hold the meeting via skype or telephone, respond in advance in writing or send a designated representative. All these options have limitations to them and you should consult with an advisor when considering these options.

Attend with someone
You have the right to be accompanied to the panel meeting by another member of the University community and we recommend you do. Having someone there, who supports you, can really help you feel more confident and supported during meetings.

We recommend you attend with a students’ union advisor as they can provide guidance on the process if at any point you are confused or unsure. But you can attend with other students or members of the university community including your course rep.

Talking with the Panel
Take your time in raising your points and responding to questions; take a deep breath or a sip of water if you need to. It is better you are able to calmly and cohesively answer rather than rushing to respond.

At any point, if attending with a students’ union advisor, you can consult with them about your response or to ask for clarity.

Try not to act in an aggressive or confrontational way; as you may very well have felt strongly about the process, given you are appealing, and you may be facing a challenging conversation. Sometimes difficult conversations are necessary to work out what happened previously in the process and the strength of your appeal.

Whilst the fitness to study procedures do not outline specific powers that the Appeals Panel have, the Appeals Panel may take action, including but not limited to;

  • Amending the original decision
  • uphold the original decision
  • reject your Appeal.

The decision and any recommendations of the Fitness to Study Appeals Panel should be given to you within 3 working days.

Decisions of the Appeals Panel are final, and complete the University internal processes

Completion of procedures letter 
is something you should receive if the appeal process for the fitness to study process is concluded and rejected. The completion of procedures letter informs you that you have exhausted the internal appeals process and there is no further appeals action internally you can take. 

Can I raise the issue externally?
Students who receive a completion of procedures letter do have the write to approach the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), an independent body set up to review complaints against Higher Education Providers in England and Wales, free to access for students

As a review body the OIA will consider how the university dealt with your complaints/appeal and its final decision. However the Scheme is not a further appeal to the university but is principally to consider whether the university has correctly applied its regulations and followed its procedures and whether the outcome is reasonable in the circumstances.

Can I take legal action?
Students will sometimes ask if they can take legal action, however we can’t advise on legal issues so you will need to speak to a qualified and appropriately trained legal service, preferably one that is familiar with higher education and/or the University’s regulations. 

It should be noted that if you do take legal action, this may prevent you from approaching the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).

Page last reviewed: 01/03/2019
Next review due: 31/08/2020