I did not appeal the decision because at time there was no reason for me to doubt the award. Information was closed. There was no transparency. I had no basis to know the circumstances in which a Distinction was awarded. It was only last year when I applied for New Zealand citizenship that the information arose. I applied for a transcript from the University as I had long lost my degree certificate. The transcript stated a distinction award. I then asked for a new degree certificate at which point the University said the transcript was in error and I was not awarded a distinction. I then sourced the Regulations on the Conduct of Examinations 1992 which governed degree awards. This doc was not openly available in 1992. As I say that doc clearly states that OVERALL marks in excess of 70% MUST be awarded a distinction. It would appear that the College submitted my marks at an overall 72% but then arrogated powers it did not have to ensure an award of pass rather than distinction. I have asked on what basis the pass rather than distinction was awarded to no avail. If there were a legitimate power then fine, I would accept it. But all the University will say is that I am out of time to appeal my marks. But I do not want to appeal the marks. I was content with them at that time and remain so. I would like the Courts to require the University to explain on what basis I was not awarded a distinction and if there is no legitimate basis for the rightful award to be made.
Thank you. As you say, this does not appear a very attractive way forward. There would appear a strong likelihood that the University would be confident in relying on the 6 year rule to strike it out. It seems odd that there is no legal mechanism whereby the University must at least justify the regulatory basis on which a pass rather than distinction was awarded even if they cannot be forced to rectify the award. In addition, I would have thought that the fact that the University issued a transcript last year thereby technically superseding the 1992 degree certificate, stating an award of distinction - albeit retracted a month later when I then asked for a new degree certificate - would be a hook to hang a case.
Thx Alex. Having reviewed your advice again I an still struggling to see the merits of this approach. The University's lawyers will immediately recognise it is out of time and will respond accordingly. In addition they will be under no legal obligation to reply at all. The most likely reply is the former. This will also demonstrate that I am struggling to find a hook on which to seek redress. I require somethng that will issue from the Courts that will require a response. As I say, I do not expect that response to say they were wrong but I do expect it to set out the regulatory basis on which they were able to set aside the Regs I mentioned and award a pass rather than distinction. I should add this whole matter has no practical bearing, it is merely a matter of principle. I have had a long successful career since 1992!
I think there is an evident distinction between seeking JR - implicitly about whether the administrative process in reaching a decision was conducted appropriately - and requiring an administrative body to transparently explain the basis on which a decision was made. The latter is not questioning that the process was correct it is merely seeking transparency. There must be a legal requirement for such information to be presented. As I say, my understanding is the relevant regulations are the Conduct of Examinations Regulations 1992 which set out how awards are made. I am asking the University to explain which regulations, if any, it used to supersede these governing Regulations. If there were none, at least I would know that I did in fact reach a Distinction, irrespective of the record the University hold. It is objectively a reasonable request.
As I also pointed out, Birkbeck College in June 2012 issued me with a transcript of my degree which stated an award of distinction, which was then retracted a month later. I would have thought that by issuing that transcript the clock would have been re-set as it was a subsequent administrative action not in keeping with the original decision.
Yes, happy to wait.
M0re than 3 weeks has elapsed. Perhaps I should re-list the question without the history trial?
Perhaps you can re-list the question without all the email trail.
Hi, thanks for your question and sorry that you have been kept waiting. My name's XXXXX XXXXX I'm going to try help you with this.
From the above replies, it seems to me that your remaining question is 'can I compel the university to provide me with information telling me how it came to its decision regarding my degree classification?'.
Outside litigation, there are two ways in which a person can require a university to disclose information:
- the Data Protection Act (DPA) - for most personal information; and
- the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) - for information held by public bodies, other than that which can be requested under the DPA or that which is exempt from disclosure.
I understand that you have had sight of some 1992 regulations and that, if a calculation contained within those regulations had been correctly applied to your marks, you would have been awarded a distinction. If this is the case, they were either not applied or not applicable. You could ask the University, in accordance with the FIA "what regulations were in place for the classification of masters degrees for undergraduates who were awarded their degrees in [month] 1992'.
You could also make a concurrent application under the DPA for your academic records including 'the basis on which your degree was classified'.
I don't believe that either of these requests would fall under any current exemptions and the university would have to respond within 20 days (in respect of the FIA request) and within 40 days (in respect of the DPA request).
You should try and formulate your data requests as specifically as possible and, in doing so, remember that the aim of a request is to recover information and not seek admissions of error. A fishing expedition may just result in a response for greater specificity.
Under the legislation, the information requested needs to be recorded within a document in order for the university to be required to give you a substantive response. It may be that there just isn't any data that is physically available to justify how your particular degree was classified in conflict with regulations that were in force at the time (e.g. if it was an error - with no paper trail). However, a combination of your transcript and the information requested above should presumably provide the answers you are looking for.
The University of London has a page that deals directly with FIA requests and which can be found at http://www.london.ac.uk/foi.html and the website of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) contains some further information on these requests at http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/freedom_of_information/guide/receiving_a_request
As for DPA requests, University of London's data protection guidelines can be found at http://www.london.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/about/DP_Guidance_-_revised_June_2011_rev_.pdf and, again, there is some useful information on the ICO's website at http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/the_guide/principle_6/access_to_personal_data
I hope this information is useful and if you need any further clarification, please do not hesitate to ask.
Many thanks Vincent. This is helpful and seems a positive way forward.
In respect of the question "what regs were in place....1992" I have already asked that question and been informed it was the Regs I have referred to previously (ie) they state an overall mark in excess of 70% is a distinction. I would expect the reply to cite the same Regs and I would not expect the answer to volunteer how the Regs were applied in my case. To obviate this problem, would it be outside the bounds of FIA requests to ask specifically "What regs were in place and precisely how were they applied to my case to arrive at the classification awarded?" It is entirely speculation on my part but it seems to me that Birkbeck College must have been treating the University Regs as discretionary guidance rather than mandatory and modified the class of degree according to its own broader criteria; something which it would appear they had no authority to do. Converselt, if they did have such discretionary authority that would be fine and would close the matter. But as I say, without being informed fully the basis of the award one can only speculate.
Your helpful advice is an outside litigation route. Does it follow that there is a litigation route to secure the information. And following on from that, if the information is provided in full and it shows that the degree classification did not accord with governing Regs, is there a litigation route to amend the error.
Thanks very much for your reply. The reason I thought it might be a good idea to make a formal request regarding the regulations that governed the classification of your degree is because I wasn't sure how you had come across the 1992 regs. For instance, whilst their titular reference is to 1992, it could be possible that they applied to the degrees of graduates commencing study in September 1992 onwards (and that previous regulations may have governed graduates that began studying in, say, 1989 but graduated in 1992). Is this possible? Or is it clear from the wording of the regs that this cannot be the case? Asking them directly on this point via an FIA request would at least resolve any question as to the regs application to an MSC awarded at the end of the 1991 academic year (which, I understand, is when yours was awarded).
As to how you formulate your information request. Absolutely, I completely agree. The obligation of the university to provide information will be triggered by any request for information. However remember that (i) they are exempt from providing information if it could be requested by an application under the DPA and (ii) the information must be in documentary form for them to be required to provide a substantive response. Making requests under both pieces of legislation would be adviseable. Detailed instructions on how to do this can be found from the information in the links I provided before.
As to litigation, I do agree with my expert colleagues above. I think it would be very difficult to take legal action against the University as you are out of time for JR and a civil claim. However, litigation is never the only route and if you can recover more concrete evidence from an FIA and/or DPA request, it may enable you to enter into more constructive dialogue with the University. Armed with clear evidence, a personal campaign may allow you to instigate a conversation with top-tier personnel who may engage with you on the issue. Certainly, any administration department will have simply given you a standard response that you cannot appeal ( in order to save resources) but by forcing them to investigate via requests for information (that cannot be ignored) they will, at least, have to engage and this may start some momentum.
There are of course no guarantees but I do wish the best of luck and please don't HESITATE to get in touch if you need any more help. I would be delighted to assist.
Please also remember to rate my answers if you are satisfied with them (otherwise JustAnswer do not credit me for my work).