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Appeal for masters dissertation marking

Hello guys! Can I appeal my Master's dissertation mark? Is the procedure worth it? I got a 50% (pass) from Durham University, and I feel that my supervisor was totally inadequate for my project and my personal circumstances and mental health issues weren't taken into account. What is your opinion? I really appreciate any help you can provide.
Reply 1
You can't usually appeal on academic judgement, so thinking a supervisor is 'inadequate' might not cut it, especially if you did not raise these concerns previously.

The usual route for appeal is administrative error or procedural error. Has there been any? Did you have mitigation in place, disability support and so on, and what did the relevant team say about this? if they were considered, you should have transparency on how it was actioned. If it was declined, then you should also have some transparency on the reasons why. It's not an automatic given that personal circumstances be accounted for, unfortunate though that is.
Reply 2
I’ve asked for a different supervisor because my current one had zero clue on my topic and also he didn’t give me any feedback.. he gave me one line of feedback for 4000 words lit review and also he didn’t take into consideration the fact that I was under medication for my depression for more than 7 months. But they didn’t give me another one they simply ignored me and I just let it pass.. and now I’m really torn in what to do.. I doubt that even with the appeal my mark will change.. what do you reckon?
Reply 3
Also How can I know if there has been an administrative or procedural error?
Reply 4
If they think the academic in question is qualified then that's probably (annoyingly!) a nonstarter. The feedback things is less than ideal. that could be an opening if your institution classes inefficient or inadequate supervision as a procedural issue. You should ask your Union about this, and take any evidence.

The personal circumstances thing is a possibly stronger opening, but it depends. The supervisor themselves do not have to (and should not) account for your personal issues or illnesses etc.

There are School-level mitigation procedures for this that apply outside of the supervisor. Indeed, it would be inappropriate in most cases for any supervisor to act outside of these procedures. However, if you tried to act on this and were not facilitated then there is an argument that there has been a procedural mistake, viz. that the relevant mitigation was not made available to you.

The big caveat here, though, is that the onus for seeking mitigation and getting in contact with the relevant people rests on the student and not the supervisor. Did you do this? If you did and it was ignored, there's maybe a route to challenge things. if you didn't, then I can't really see how a successful appeal could be mounted in the majority of cases.
(edited 4 months ago)
Reply 5
Original post by Koni05
Also How can I know if there has been an administrative or procedural error?

Basically by looking at your degree regulations and seeing if you think any of the criteria they outline for appeals have been met.
Reply 6
Firstly, thank you very much for your help!
The module leader was aware of my condition and the struggling I had with my meds but besides a zoom call there wasn’t much of help. I simple asked for an extension and it was given to me but I wasn’t ready to talk about the struggles with suicide I’ve been dealing this year.
I did some psychotherapy sessions with a psychologist from my home country as it was easier for me to communicate about my depression in my native language, do you reckon a letter from him could help?
Original post by Koni05
Hello guys! Can I appeal my Master's dissertation mark? Is the procedure worth it? I got a 50% (pass) from Durham University, and I feel that my supervisor was totally inadequate for my project and my personal circumstances and mental health issues weren't taken into account. What is your opinion? I really appreciate any help you can provide.

I would advise some caution on your part, and a frank, personal review of your work. Both the quality of your Supervision and your health, while very likely impactful, absolutely should have been declared beforehand, to their fullest extent. Mitigation shouldn't be a response to a grade - or would you still be arguing for a review if you'd got 70% in the same circumstances?

Take a look at your previous grades and the quality of that work, compared with the quality of your dissertation. From an entirely external perspective when someone, who has otherwise got decent grades, gets exactly the pass mark (which I presume 50% is) it suggests that mitigation has been applied, that in fact a failing paper was submitted and the pass mark is the full consideration.
Reply 8
Original post by threeportdrift
I would advise some caution on your part, and a frank, personal review of your work. Both the quality of your Supervision and your health, while very likely impactful, absolutely should have been declared beforehand, to their fullest extent. Mitigation shouldn't be a response to a grade - or would you still be arguing for a review if you'd got 70% in the same circumstances?

Take a look at your previous grades and the quality of that work, compared with the quality of your dissertation. From an entirely external perspective when someone, who has otherwise got decent grades, gets exactly the pass mark (which I presume 50% is) it suggests that mitigation has been applied, that in fact a failing paper was submitted and the pass mark is the full consideration.

I understand your point truly , however my grades to the other modules were on average 63-64% which is way more than 50%. I got a 68% on my undergrad dissertation, I’m not a phenomenal student but I’m not that bad as failing a dissertation, I got good feedback on the literature review and my supervisor said that the topic is extremely interesting and since it was an online questionnaire instead of 50-60 respondents that he asked me to collect , I got 168… that’s why I’m struggling a lot to see where that 50% came from..
Reply 9
Original post by Koni05
Firstly, thank you very much for your help!
The module leader was aware of my condition and the struggling I had with my meds but besides a zoom call there wasn’t much of help. I simple asked for an extension and it was given to me but I wasn’t ready to talk about the struggles with suicide I’ve been dealing this year.
I did some psychotherapy sessions with a psychologist from my home country as it was easier for me to communicate about my depression in my native language, do you reckon a letter from him could help?

Unfortunately, it does not sound as though you have really engaged with the student support services or mitigation at the institution, and ultimately, they are going to say that's on you, not them.

The supervisor is not placed to offer support as such, they can at best signpost you to where you can get it for yourself - this is where a lot of students tend to trip up. The University's duty of care, such that it is, only extends to having the access to these procedures, and not to actively doling them out. In other words, they won't come to you about this, you have to go to them.

@threeportdrift is correct to say that everything should have been declared at the time via the relevant channels (i.e. not just a supervisor or unit leader, but via student services and/or disability support). I do not think a retrospective letter will do much unless you have a concrete, inarguable reason why you couldn't have told them about it at the time. I do not mean to sound hard or callous, but most institutions actually have specified in their regulations that 'I didn't want to talk about it' is not an acceptable reason to appeal or apply for retrospective mitigation.

Regarding feedback, I think that is something of a stretch. I have marked countless papers, essays, assessments and thinking that something is interesting, or noting that somebody got more responses than required does not speak to the quality of the analysis or argumentation. Again I do not want to sound harsh, but these are the facts as seen from the eyes of the academic doing the marking. Somebody might have great prep work but a poor final product. It happens all the time, and students almost always come back with 'but you said that what I did was interesting', or some variant of this. Sure, but 'interesting' is not the same things as 'good academic work worthy of a 2i'.

All of this is to say that I'm not sure there is much of a case to be argued. Of course, if you want to persist, you should speak to your student union as a matter of urgency. Even for procedural appeals etc there is a time-limited window.

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