A student appeal is the last application you can make to have a decision about a matter affecting your University experience reviewed within the University.
Notice of a Decision
A large majority of the decisions made by University staff are authorised by State or Commonwealth legislation, JCU policies, and/or the Terms and Conditions of Agreements you signed up to with the University.
A student who is affected by a University decision is generally given notice in some way of that decision. The notice may be delivered in various forms, for example, a letter or email addressed to the student, an infringement notice, or a request to pay a fine.
This notice will generally identify the specific policy or law which gives the University the authority to make that decision. The notice itself, or the policy/law will describe:
- any rights the person has to appeal the decision; and
- the grounds on which a decision may be appealed; and
- where or how to submit an appeal.
Questioning a Decision
As a JCU student you have the right to question a decision of the University where you believe that your legal rights, interests, or legitimate and reasonable expectations, appear to have been adversely impacted.
You have a right to expect that a decision-maker will provide reasons for his/her decision and will provide further clarification upon request. A request for clarification of a decision does not constitute an appeal.
If, once you have considered the reasons for a decision, you still believe that the decision is wrong, the policy and procedures that govern that decision may provide a process to question the decision. Sometimes this is a two-step process which involves a review of the decision first, and then, depending on the outcome of the review, a student appeal. Sometimes you can only appeal against the decision.
To have a decision changed or overturned through a review or appeal, you must make a case for why this should occur. The basis of this case will often be your arguments and evidence about why the decision was wrong. However, in some instances, the grounds on which you can make your appeal will be restricted. The policy and procedures relevant to the particular decision will state what these restrictions are.
Should I appeal?
The following general steps should be taken when considering whether you should submit an appeal against a decision:
Step 1 Find out who made the decision and under what authority it has been made.
Step 2 Make informal inquiries with the decision-maker if you need to clarify the reasons for the decision.
Step 3 Check the Policy and Procedures under which the decision was made to determine whether or not the decision made and the explanation for it conform with that Policy and Procedures.
Step 4 Check whether the Policy under which the decision was made has a provision for a student appeal. The provision might have specific requirements:
- the grounds on which an appeal can be made;
- a deadline for submitting an appeal; and
- how to submit an appeal.
Step 5 Consider whether or not you can make a case for an appeal. A letter simply pleading for the decision to be changed is not a sufficient appeal.
Step 6 Consider obtaining assistance from a Student Association Advocate to consider your options, and provide advice about what case may be made.
Step 7 If you wish to appeal a decision that does not appear to be governed by any policy, law or Agreement you have with the University, you may consider whether to make a formal complaint under the Student Complaint Management Policy and Procedures.
In some cases, appeal submissions that are late, or which do not state and address the grounds for appeal, will not be accepted.
Submitting an appeal
When preparing an appeal you should state clearly:
- the decision against which you are appealing; and
- the grounds (or basis) of your appeal.
Be as specific as possible about the details and/or circumstances relating to your appeal.
You should make every effort to ‘back up’ what you say by providing documentary evidence relevant to your appeal, and referring to this evidence within your appeal statement.
Do not rely on just stating what happened or what changed. It is not normally sufficient for you to claim the existence of certain circumstances, or communications without providing supporting evidence which verifies your claims.
Generally, the University will not act on a decision until the outcome of an appeal is known, although there may be some cases where this is not possible.
Grounds (basis) for appeal
In your appeal, you need to show the person hearing the appeal or the Appeal Panel that there are good and reasonable grounds for the University to re-consider its decision. Your view that a decision is wrong is not enough.
Your grounds for appeal should fit the grounds specified in the relevant policy. The case you make must, in addition to specifying the ground for your appeal, include relevant information and evidence to explain and support the basis of your appeal.
Many of the University’s policies state that the only grounds for appealing a decision are that a breach of natural justice or procedural fairness has occurred.
Some general examples illustrating situations that may form the basis of an appeal, include:
- The decision-maker has breached a Policy or Agreement.
- An administrative error has been made.
- A procedural irregularity has occurred and, as a consequence, you have not been afforded procedural fairness.
- Sufficient evidence was not made available to you, or you were not given the opportunity to respond to that evidence, and the information was integral to the decision made.
- Information that is irrelevant to the decision being made has been taken into account, or information relevant to the decision has not been given due regard.
- The decision-maker has been biased in making his/her decision.
A fine or penalty imposed was unfair.
Please note that the following factors are not sufficient grounds for appeal:
- your failure to keep personal details such as key contact addresses up-to-date in eStudent; or
- your failure to read, or respond to (where relevant) emails or letters addressed to your official JCU email address or your preferred mailing address in eStudent; or
- your lateness in responding to official JCU correspondence.
Procedural Fairness (Natural Justice)
Procedural fairness is also known as ‘Natural Justice’. Both terms are used interchangeably. It requires a procedurally fair hearing and an unbiased decision being made. All parties to a complaint (complainant and respondent) must be afforded natural justice.
What happens after you submit an appeal?
The University’s receipt of your appeal will be acknowledged.
The relevant policy will often specify such things as:
- Whether there is a deadline for the University to start the appeal process, or to decide your appeal.
- Whether there are further opportunities for you to put your case in person.
- Who will make the decision on your appeal (a particular officer, or an appeal panel (where relevant))
- The decision maker’s powers and authority.
- The range of possible outcomes.
The original decision-maker should never be a member of the appeal panel.
If the appeal process includes an opportunity for you to meet with the appeal panel or decision-maker in person, you will receive notice of this.
Once the decision-maker has made a determination about your appeal, you will receive notification in writing.
Potential outcomes of an appeal
The person or appeal panel which considers your appeal will not simply change the original decision because you do not like it.
The appeal decision-maker will firstly consider whether you have made a sufficient case to establish that there are grounds for appeal. If the appeal decision-maker decides that you have argued grounds for appeal, the appeal will be upheld, either partially or completely. The next stage depends on two factors:
- the powers of the appeal decision-maker which are often specified in the relevant policy, and
- the type of fault found in the original decision-making process.
The result may be that:
- the matter is referred back to the original decision-maker with an indication of the flaw that needs to be rectified, so that the process begins again from that point, or
- the appeal decision-maker varies the decision made by the original decision-maker, or recommends that an authorised person authorises the appropriate change.
In most cases the decision of an appeal panel is final and no further consideration will be given by JCU to the same issues. At this stage if you still disagree with the decision you may approach external agencies.