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Fitness to Practice Appeal

 

Stages of Fitness to Practice


Investigation
Hearing
Appeal

This article is for Fitness to Practice Appeals and is intended as a helpful guide that should be read alongside the Fitness to Practice Policy, for related processes see Disciplinary, Fitness to Practice Investigation, Fitness to Practice Hearing, Academic Misconduct, Suspension or Mediation

Overview

Appealing a Fitness to Practice Hearing 
If you remain dissatisfied with the findings and outcome you can appeal the Hearing.

Appeals against a decision to suspend or expel you must reach the university within 10 working days of the outcome being received.

For Appeals against any other decision, your appeal must reach the university within 20 working days of the outcome being received.

Outcomes communicated via email this is deemed to be received 24 hours after being sent. Outcomes communicated by hard copy post only these is deemed to be received 48 hours after being sent.

Appealing Fitness to Practice Investigation 
If you remain dissatisfied with the outcome or handling of Fitness to Practice Investigation which did not lead to a Hearing, there is no formal appeals process although you may wish to raise a formal complaint within 3 months of the investigation; though we recommend acting sooner.

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

  • New evidence is available
    • and there is good reason why this evidence was not available when first considered by the Disciplinary officer
  • The decision reached was not reasonable
    • meaning, the decision is not one that any reasonable person would find understandable, rather than personal disagreement with the outcome.
  • 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

An appeal is not a re-opening of the investigation and 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’s Deputy Academic Registrar for appeals against decisions to suspend or expel, or the University’s Casework Manager for any other appeals. 

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. A Sunderland Students’ Union advisor could help. 

  • 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 appeal. Phrases like “please, I’ve worked so hard this year and would be devastated not to get my degree” or similar emotive pleas does not add any factual points and is likely to make your appeal longer than it needs to be or make it confusing to read. 
  • 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. 

Tips for specific grounds

  • New evidence is available
    • You will need a good reason why this evidence was not available at the time of the panel, 
      • if you were unaware of the evidence you should explain how you have become aware of it? 
      • if the evidence was not available to you did you raise this with the Disciplinary Officer?
  • The decision reached was not reasonable
    • You will need to think beyond any personal disagreement with the outcome and think more broadly; why would this be considered unreasonable to most people?
  • Procedures were not followed 
    • You will need to identify and evidence where procedures were not followed and refer to university documentation to show how the procedure should have been enacted. You should also remember that this needs to be a large enough issue that this led to a material impact on the process and/or outcome and you will need to be able to articulate what you believe would have happened were it not for incorrect application of procedures. 

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 appeals is an offence under both academic and disciplinary regulations and may lead to expulsion from the University

When to submit your request
Appeals against a decision to suspend or expel you must reach the university within 10 working days of the outcome being received.

For Appeals against any other decision, your appeal must reach the university within 20 working days of the outcome being received.

Outcomes communicated via email are deemed to have been received 24 hours after being sent. Outcomes communicated by hard copy post only are deemed to have been received 48 hours after being sent.

Where to send your request
The appeal can be emailed digitally to the University’s Deputy Academic Registrar (for appeals against decisions to suspend or expel), or the University’s Casework Manager (for any other appeals) at studentcasework@sunderland.ac.uk   

Who reviews appeals
For appeals against suspensions of expulsions the Fitness to Practice Appeals Panel will include;

  • The Vice-Chancellor as chair of the committee
    • Or acting as their nominee, a member of the University Executive team such as a Deputy Vice Chancellor    
  • A university Dean or Director
  • A president of the students’ union

For all other appeals the Fitness to Practice Appeals Panel will include;

  • A academic member of staff as chair of the committee
    • Who must be from outside of the School where the case arose 
  • A academic member of staff from the School
  • A academic member of staff from outside the School

All academic staff members will have experience of fitness to practice cases. None of the members must have had previous involvement with the case other than a decision to make a precautionary suspension

Possible Outcomes 
The Fitness to Practice Appeals Panel will consider whether the documentation of the case suggests that the decision of the original Fitness to Practice Panel was reasonable and the procedure was followed correctly. The Fitness to Practice Appeals Panel may;

  • Amend the decision of the original Fitness to Practice Panel 
  • Uphold the decision of the original Fitness to Practice Panel
  • Refer the case back to a new Fitness to Practice Panel for reconsideration
  • Reject the Appeal.

Timescales
The decision and any recommendations of the Fitness to Practice Appeals Panel should be given to you within 5 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 practice hearing is concluded and is not upheld. 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