Information on appeals & academic regulations

General Information

It is nearly impossible to appeal an exam grade citing only medical reasons. In other words, it is more prudent not to write an exam if you are feeling ill. If you write an exam despite being aware that you are sick and obtain a low grade, it will be very difficult to obtain permission to write a supplementary exam. If you were unaware of your illness or disability at the time of the examination, and have medical documentation to that effect, your appeal may be successful.

Carefully consult your exam schedule. Making a mistake when checking your exam schedule is not a valid reason for obtaining a supplementary examination.

University Regulations Regarding Exam Deferrals or Late Submission of Assignments

The University Senate has adopted a University-wide policy on the justification of absence from an examination or of late submission of assignments (see section I-9.5). You can also find more university regulations pertaining to examinations by looking at sections I-9.2 to I-9.8.

*Note that if your absence from any graded requirement is not foreseeable, you are required to provide a medical certificate or proof of extenuating circumstances within five working days. This certificate must bear the date of the missed examination or assignment – in other words, you must obtain the note on the day of the missed exam or assignment.

Adapted Exams

Access Service, a branch of the Student Academic Success Service (SASS) arranges accommodations for students with a disability. This includes the provision of adapted exams. For example, with medical documentation in hand, Access Service can grant a student the opportunity to write an exam in a silent room, with the help of specialized computer programs, etc. Students must register with Access Service within prescribed deadlines.

Please visit the SASS website for more information.

Faculty Regulations or Additional Information

In addition to University Regulations, faculties sometimes provide additional information or have more specific regulations regarding exams. In the case of a conflict between the University regulations and the regulations of your faculty, the University regulations trump.

Consult your faculty or school regulations here:

Arts
Civil Law – Regulations pertaining to the Civil Law Section of the Faculty of Law are only written in French.
Common Law
Engineering
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Health Sciences
Management
Medicine
Science
Social Sciences

A request for grade revision is a request for another professor to re-evaluate your work.

Here is the official University of Ottawa regulation on revision of grades and appeal

If you request a grade revision, keep in mid that you may receive a higher mark, a lower mark, or a mark of equal value to the original mark.

You may only request that a particular exam or assignment be reviewed. It is not possible to request the revision of a final grade, as your course’s final grade encompasses distinct evaluations.

Thus, requesting a grade revision is not always the most appropriate way to solve certain problems. In fact, in many cases, a grade revision is of little use to a student; i.e., if you were misinformed by your professor regarding which chapters were subject to examination, if you found the examination format unfair, if you did not receive your accommodations during the exam, etc. If your problem would not be solved by a grade revision, we suggest you write to the Chair of the Department or to the Academic Unit of the course in question in order to discuss the situation and offer alternative solutions to the problem at hand.

Where do I start?

Before requesting a grade revision, you must discuss the grade with the professor who awarded it. At the Student Rights Centre we have found that many cases can be solved quickly and efficiently when students approach their professors first.

How long do I have to file my request?

For all assignments received during the session, you must file a written request within FIVE working days after receiving the grade in question. You must quickly discuss the grade with your professor as the five business day deadline continues to apply despite any attempt at/or delays in reaching your professor.

For all final exam grades, you must submit your request within TEN business days after the grade has become official. The date can be found on the university calendar.

What must I provide to file an appeal for grade revision?

Your request for grade revision is essentially a letter in which you must state the following:

  • The course title;
  • The course syllabus;
  • The grade assigned;
  • The name of the professor having assigned the grade;
  • The grounds for appeal. This requires for you to be as specific as possible. Saying as a sole argument that you are used to receiving higher grades is not convincing. Preferably, refer to specific parts of your work and debate the validity of your answer/work in reference to the grading scheme, if it is available;
  • You must also provide the corrected version of the assignment or exam in question, if it is within your possession (don’t forget to make a photocopy for your records!);
  • Any other relevant documents.

To whom do I send my letter of appeal for grade revision?

Your appeal must be sent to the Chair of the Academic Unit offering the course. When writing your appeal, keep in mind that the Chair or its delegate will send your appeal to the professor in question and ask for their comments. Another professor will then be assigned to review your work. Based on all documents provided, the Chair then determines the grade to be assigned.

Can I appeal the Chair’s decision?

The Chair’s decision can be appealed to the Senate Appeals Committee. This being said, the Senate Appeals Committee cannot change a grade. At that level of appeal, you would have to argue that the grade revision procedures were not followed and that another review is warranted. Refer to our section on this specific committee to know how to proceed.

First, consult the Regulation on Academic Fraud. This regulation applies to all faculties of the University of Ottawa.

Our FAQ section on Academic fraud will also answer many of your questions.

Here is a general description of the procedure that is followed in cases where academic fraud is alleged:

When a professor suspects a student of having committed academic fraud, they will send a detailed report to the Dean of the faculty offering the course.

The Dean or their delegate will study the professor’s report and decide if there is enough proof to formally accuse the student of academic fraud. If this is the case, you will receive an email informing you of the allegation.

Attached with this email, you should be provided a copy of all documents used in bringing forward the allegation. Over the years, the SRC has seen cases where students were not provided with all of the evidence being used against them. If you are facing a similar situation, please contact us immediately.

In most cases, students will be given the opportunity to opt between the “accelerated process” and the “regular process.” Students have five business days to inform the administration of the process they choose to follow. Students who had previously been accused of academic fraud are not eligible for the accelerated process. Students who are alleged to have committed an offence serious enough to merit the most serious sanctions (sanctions 2(h) to 2(n) of the Policy on academic fraud) are also not eligible for the accelerated process (examples: sending another student to write an examination in your place, falsifying data at the graduate level, breaking and entering to gain access to exam questions, trying to gain unauthorized access to a computer system in order to change academic results, etc.). Lastly, if the allegation concerns more than one student you will not be eligible for the accelerated process.

Accelerated Process

It is very important to note that students who choose the accelerated process recognize that they have contravened, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, the policy on academic fraud and as such, a sanction will be imposed on the student. The accelerated process is equivalent to recognition of guilt.

If a student has chosen the accelerated process, a meeting will be arranged between them and the Dean or their delegate (often the vice-dean, academic). During this meeting, the student will be asked to explain the situation and the Dean or their delegate will impose a sanction. As a student, you have two business days to decide whether or not to sign the agreement. You may, of course, choose to sign this agreement right away. If you sign the agreement the sanction will be applied immediately, the agreement kept in your file, and the case will be concluded. A copy of the signed agreement will be sent to the professor teaching the course where the allegation arose and to the director of the academic unit.

The accelerated process should take no more than 15 working days from beginning to end.

Should you chose not to sign the agreement proposed in the context of the accelerated process, the regular process will follow. You should note that the administration can also put an end to the accelerated process (see section 10 of the regulation).

In such a case, the fact that you had originally opted for the accelerated process should not be divulged to the members of the Committee of Inquiry who will then study your case and render a decision. As such, the Dean or their delegate with whom you met in the context of the accelerated process will no longer be involved in the case.

Regular Process

Should you opt for the regular process or if the accelerated process fails, you will have the opportunity to respond to the faculty’s letter within a predetermined time frame. Usually, this time frame is two (2) weeks from the day you received the letter. If you wish to request help from the Student Rights Centre in writing your response, please book an appointment as soon as possible.

In addition to your official response, you will be able to meet the Committee of Inquiry in order to answer their questions and add your own clarifications. You may also choose not to meet the Committee. The role of the Committee of Inquiry is to determine if the allegation is founded, and if so, to recommend a sanction.

Within 10 business days following the Committee of Inquiry meeting, you should receive the Committee of Inquiry’s report indicating their recommendation. You will then be given the opportunity to submit your comments concerning this report and the recommended sanction, within a time frame of ten (10) business days. The Executive Committee of the Faculty will then study your written response and the sanction recommended by the Committee of Inquiry in order to make a decision.

The Executive Committee’s decision is the faculty’s final decision. This being said, note that sanctions 2(j) to 2(n) are imposed by the Senate Appeals Committee upon the recommendation of the Faculty.

If you are unsatisfied with the results of the procedure, you will have ten (10) business days to appeal the faculty’s final decision to the Senate Appeals Committee. Refer to our section on the Senate Appeals Committee for more information.

The Senate Appeals Committee is the highest level of appeal for individual cases at the University of Ottawa. Decisions taken by the Senate Appeals Committee are final and without appeal.

To begin, consult the Committee’s Terms of Reference and procedure. In order to bring your case to the attention of the Senate Appeals Committee, you must have already received a decision from your faculty.

When appealing to this Committee, it is important that your letter of appeal be clear and that the facts outlining your individual situation be organized chronologically. Your letter is the first document the Committee members will see, and they do not know you personally, nor the context surrounding your situation. Remember that the Senate Appeals Committee is made up of professors and students belonging to various faculties.

As indicated in the Committee’s procedures, the Senate Appeals Committee retains no power to change a mark or a grade. If your appeal concerns a grade review and has made it to the Senate level, you are essentially there to argue that your Faculty’s revision of your grade was insufficient, invalid and/or unjust. In such cases, a successful outcome would usually be to be granted the opportunity for another review to take place.

As mentioned in the procedure, appellants will be invited to attend a hearing with the Senate Appeals Committee. The Committee meets every other Friday morning. While you will be allowed to add new information that is pertinent to your case, Committee members will have already read all of the documentation pertaining to your appeal. For this reason, you are not expected to give a presentation or explain your case from the beginning. Rather, your role is to answer the Committee’s questions. Once you have answered the Committee’s questions, you will be asked to leave the room. The Committee will discuss your case and usually render a decision that day. The decision is communicated to you via email the following week.

As of August 2017, the members of the Senate Appeals Committee are:

Denis Boivin (Chair)
Christine Dallaire
Robert Laganière
Mazarine Lainé
Mike Newman
Patrick O’Byrne
Reuben Rothstein
Valerie Steeves

Please note: In order to guarantee the integrity of the appeals process, it is important not to contact the members of the Senate Appeals Committee before your case has been heard.

In order to pursue a program of study within your Faculty, you must respect certain pre-established conditions. The University has established general regulations applicable to all undergraduate students. See section 11 of the academic regulations for more information on the averages to maintain in order to remain in good standing with your faculty.

Can I appeal my mandatory withdrawal?

Yes. In the majority of cases, students who win the appeal of their mandatory withdrawal are put on academic probation.

To successfully appeal your withdrawal, you must convince your faculty that an exception to the regulation is, in your case, justified.

When preparing your appeal, asking yourself these questions may be helpful:
Why were you unable to meet your faculty’s required average for remaining in good academic standing?
Did you fall ill?
Did problems arise within your personal life or did you experience exceptional circumstances?
What are you prepared to do in order to improve your academic standing in the future?

You may also refer to our appeal letter template for withdrawal in the Faculty of Engineering. Even if you are not in Engineering, this template may give you a sense of how to write your letter of appeal.

To make a request for reimbursement you must first write to your faculty. The contact person for reimbursement requests changes from faculty to faculty, therefore please contact the Student Rights Centre to know where to send your request. In most cases, the request relies on exceptional circumstances that have prevented the student from recording their withdrawal before the course withdrawal deadline.

If you are not satisfied with the decision of your faculty, you can then submit an appeal to the Financial Services Appeal Committee within 10 working days of the date you received the decision from your faculty. Here are the applicable rules regarding an appeal at with Financial Resources. In order to submit an appeal to the attention of the Financial Services Appeal Committee, you must do so via the appeal application in UoCampus.

To obtain a copy of your official academic transcript, you must be acquitted of all pending debt on your account.

Is it possible to modify what appears on your academic transcript?

Under normal circumstances, it is impossible to modify what appears on your academic transcript. For example, if you fail a course, but pass it the second time around, only your passing grade will be calculated within your GPA, but the original ‘F’ will nonetheless remain on your transcript.

That being said, some appeals requesting for courses to be retroactively dropped from a transcript have at times been granted by the University. For example, if a student’s academic performance was unknowingly affected by a disability that had not yet been diagnosed, a request for retroactive drop may be successful, if medical documentation is provided. Generally speaking, requests for retroactive drop are not successful if you were aware of the circumstances affecting you and chose to continue your studies. Requests for retroactive drop are exceptional, if you are thinking of making such a request we encourage you to book an appointment with a Student Rights Advocate to discuss your case.

If you are experiencing a problem with a professor or a member of the University personnel, there are many ways to resolve the situation. In most cases, it is usually recommended that you begin by bringing your concern to the professor or member of personnel directly. It is often most efficient to solve your problem in this informal manner.

If your problem concerns a professor, it may be a problem involving yourself as an individual, or a problem affecting the entire class.

If your problem with the professor involves only you, you may communicate with the professor with the help of the Student Rights Centre if you do not feel comfortable communicating with the professor on your own.

If your problem with the professor involves the entire class, we suggest you begin by speaking to your professor. If you speak to them in person, we suggest you invite your classmates to the meeting. You may also choose to write to your professor. Moreover, we suggest you write this letter in conjunction with other students.

If you have attempted to resolve the problem informally, without success or with unsatisfactory results, you may always address your complaint to the professor’s supervisor, either in a formal or informal manner.

In the case of a complaint against a professor, we suggest that you decide whether to address your complaint to the Chair of the department of the course in question and/or the Dean of the faculty concerned. Whereas the Chair of the department often has the means to address a problem more informally, the Dean is the professor’s employer and as such has the power to investigate and potentially discipline the professor.

In such a case, your complaint must be submitted in writing. If possible, have the letter signed by as many concerned colleagues and classmates as you can.

Will my professor know I have signed a complaint against them?

Members of the administration have the obligation to preserve the anonymity of complaint signatories. When the Dean of a faculty (or any member of the administration) communicates a complaint to a professor, all information pertaining to the student’s identity is blacked out.

However, within the context of certain complaints, it is impossible to preserve a student’s anonymity. For example, if your complaint concerns a specific act or transgression to which you alone were subject, the Dean will ask your permission to reveal your identity to the professor.

What can I expect if I lodge a student complaint?

Many students frustratingly find that no measures are taken to remedy their problem after they lodge a complaint. However, we encourage students to file complaints because it is important for the University to know when problems occur. Furthermore, you may not know if complaints regarding the same situation or professor have been filed in the past which could have an important impact on the outcome of your complaint.

In the case of student complaints, patience is therefore the golden virtue. Keep in mind that if your complaint involves a professor’s failure to adhere to their obligations, the Dean must respect the procedures outlined in the professor’s collective agreement.

The University regulation on the normalization of grades (the famous “bell curve”!) is found at section 9.1 of the academic regulations and reads as such:

“The use of a predetermined distribution (statistical or otherwise) in order to determine the assignment of marks is contrary to the principles of evaluation endorsed by Senate.

Faculties must take appropriate measures to ensure that members of the teaching staff assign marks which accurately reflect the definitions of student performance established in the official grading system.

When a faculty deems that the assignment of marks in one or several courses is not in accordance with the official grading system or with the faculty guidelines for its implementation, the faculty can take any corrective action required, provided however that no such measure result in a mark lower to that previously communicated to a student.”

Notice that the regulation clearly prohibits that a grade be lowered by bell curve after it was communicated to you.

The University of Ottawa Ombudsperson’s Office is an impartial, confidential service, independent of all existing University and student administrative structures. The Office draws its independence from its funding structure, which is split in two between the University and the student unions.

The ombudsperson serves everybody in our university community. They provide advice, assistance and information on how to resolve a problem or a conflict. They also have the power to review decisions made by the Senate Appeals Committee to determine if the decisions were made fairly. They do not have decision making power but can make recommendations regarding cases heard by the Senate Appeals Committee or regarding systemic issues on campus.

What is the difference between the Student Rights Centre and the Ombudsperson’s Office?

The SRC offers advocacy services to students, meaning that we not impartial. In fact, we are necessarily partial in favour of students, similarly to how a lawyer would represent their clients’ interests.

Whereas both our office and the Ombudsperson’s Office can provide information regarding university regulations and structures, the Ombudsperson’s Office may refer you to the SRC if you require help in filing an appeal or a complaint. If you aren’t sure which office might best be suited to help you, give either of us a call!