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A candidate, or their Tutor on their behalf, may make representations – which constitute a complaint about the conduct of an examination – under the procedure for the Review of the Results of Examinations for Postgraduate Qualifications, provided that:

  1. the representations are received within three months of the date on which the outcome of the examination was formally communicated to the candidate;
  2. the complaint can be demonstrated to fall within at least one of the following grounds specified in the regulations:
  • 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;
  • 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;
  • that there is demonstrable evidence of prejudice, bias, or inadequate assessment in the examination process.

Any student intending to submit a formal request for a review is strongly advised to consult the full review regulations   – see the University's Statutes and Ordinances, Chap. VI, Section 2: Review of the Results of Examinations for Postgraduate Qualifications.

For further information about University complaint and review procedures see the webpages provided by the Student Complaints and Appeals Section, Academic Division – http://www.studentcomplaints.admin.cam.ac.uk/.  

Higher Doctors degrees

Note: The examination review procedure may be invoked only by Graduate Students, registered for the postgraduate qualifications specified: PhD, MSc, MLitt; MPhil; MRes; MSt; MEd; BD; MD / VetMD / EngD / EdD ; CPGS; certain Diplomas, etc. There is no review or appeal procedure for applicants for higher Doctors degrees (DD; LLD; MedScD; ScD; LittD; MusD). 

Some general points about the examination review procedure

  1. The review regulations apply to all Graduate Student qualifications listed in the Schedule to the regulations (and include progress examinations – such as a PhD registration examination – approved under Regulation 9 of the General Regulations for Admission as a Graduate Student).
  2. An examination review is not an ‘appeal’ procedure as such, but is essentially a review of the conduct of a candidate's examination. That is, the review process cannot change the outcome of the examination, but it may, if a case is upheld, lead to a remedy that might include re-examination under certain circumstances or conditions.
  3. A complaint about the conduct of an examination will need to be demonstrated to fall within at least one of the three grounds stated above. The Student Complaints and Appeals Section has provided the following illustrations as to the three grounds on which a complaint is assessed (NB: these are not exhaustive):

​(a) Material circumstances …

For instance: Relevant and significant circumstances pertaining to the examination process that could not have been foreseen or previously been made known to the Examiners, for good and valid reasons.

(b) Procedural irregularities …

For instance: Substantial and significant administrative errors or regulatory breaches, or inappropriate application of marking and classing criteria.

(c) Prejudice, bias, or inadequate assessment …

For instance: A significant, negative connection between an Examiner and a student which prevents the exercise of proper judgment; objective evidence that an Examiner could not have impartially assessed the work in question; a lack of due diligence on one or more Examiners’ part. This head of review requires objective evidence, not mere assertion or an emphasis on mere coincidence.

It is important that any representations submitted set out clearly and concisely the matters of complaint, and in accordance with the specified grounds. The process is largely evidence-based, and supporting documentation should be clearly organised, complete, relevant, and proportionate.

  1. Representations which fall outside the specified grounds for review – for example, matters of academic judgment, or issues relating to the course of study or research– will not be considered. In particular, the review procedure cannot interfere with the operation of academic judgment: requests for review that raise issues of academic judgment are therefore likely to be considered ineligible (i.e. disagreements or differences of opinion as to the Examiners’ view of the quality of the student’s work do not in themselves constitute grounds for review).
  2. The consideration of representations under these regulations may go through several stages. Initial consideration is by the Board of Graduate Studies (which will involve formal consultation with a Degree Committee, or similar body). Thereafter, if a candidate wishes to make representations challenging the Board’s decision, or rejecting any remedial steps determined by the Board, the matter is referred to a specially-constituted Review Committee. The Review Committee’s consideration of the matter comprises several phases: initial scrutiny of the case as to whether it has been demonstrated to fall within the specified grounds; full hearing of the complaint (further formal statements, and an oral hearing). A Review Committee’s decision is final, and concludes the University's internal procedures. Any subsequent review would normally be by the national Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)