Complaints and appeals | University of Oxford
Complaints and appeals
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Complaints and appeals

Introduction

Oxford University welcomes applications from students from all backgrounds and is committed to a fair and transparent admissions process. Complaints and appeals are taken very seriously and will be dealt with appropriately and carefully.

We typically receive over 20,000 applications each year for around 3,300 places, so there are not enough places for all the well-qualified students who apply to study here. If you are not shortlisted for interview, or not offered a place to study at Oxford, that is not in itself grounds for an appeal: appeals are not upheld unless there is evidence of procedural error or irregularity.

Appeals Process

Stage 1: Complaint or Appeal to College or Department

Complaints or appeals about undergraduate admissions decisions are dealt with by the college which considered the application, except for Medicine and Biomedical Sciences which are dealt with by the relevant department. You must make your appeal within 28 calendar days of (a) for complaints, when the matters you are complaining about occurred, or (b), for appeals, the date you were notified of the relevant admissions decision.

(See further information on stage 1.)

Stage 2: Review Request to University

If you are dissatisfied with the response to your stage 1 complaint or appeal, you can ask the Director of Undergraduate Admissions to review that response. The Director of Undergraduate Admissions is a representative of the University, rather than any individual college or department. 

You must ask the Director to review the decision within 20 working days of the college’s or department’s final response at stage 1.  

(See further information on stage 2.)

Other Procedures

The following types of complaints or appeals have separate procedures:

Key Points

It is strongly recommended that you discuss your concerns with a teacher or family member who will be able to support and assist you. You are also encouraged to consider the following issues: 

Mitigating circumstances

You can ask us to consider mitigating circumstances as part of our assessment of your application where you think that the strength of your application or our assessment your application (eg at interview) is likely to be significantly affected by one of the following:

  • Your physical or mental health (including a disability)

  • A bereavement

  • Other significant adverse personal circumstances (eg the impact of crime)

It is strongly recommended that you let us know about any mitigating circumstances or other relevant information as soon as possible, as it is not usually possible to take this into account after admissions decisions have been made. 

If you have experienced mitigating circumstances in your education which may have affected your examination performance at school or college, before your UCAS application is submitted, this is a matter for your school or college in the first instance (which may refer it on to the relevant Examination Board), including if the issue was diagnosed after you had completed your course. You should therefore contact your school or college to ask them to consider your mitigating circumstances and we will expect you to be able to show that you have done this before we will consider your mitigating circumstances. 

If you want Oxford to take any mitigating circumstances into account you should include details on your UCAS application. This could be in your personal statement, or you could ask your teacher to include the information in your reference. (Read more about completing your UCAS application.)

If you experience any significant mitigating circumstances which may impact on the application process, or receive a diagnosis which may have impacted on your performance at school or college after your UCAS application has been submitted, please inform the Oxford college which is considering your application as soon as possible. You should still also inform your school or college, as explained above.

The impact of mitigating circumstances on the assessment of an application is a matter of academic judgment which is not something that can be appealed under the admissions appeals procedure.

Information used to inform admissions decisions

Competition for places at Oxford is very strong, so there are not enough places for all the well-qualified students who apply to study here. Oxford tutors select the very best candidates from all those who apply, taking all aspects of each application into account. This includes the academic record, personal statement, academic reference and any predicted grades, as well as any written work or written tests required for the course. Contextual data is considered wherever possible, along with information on any mitigating circumstances. Interviews are also taken into account for those candidates who are shortlisted.

It is not possible to appeal tutors’ academic judgement in reaching their admissions decisions.

Interviews

Many students report that their interviews have gone well, especially if they believe they have answered all the questions, but this is not necessarily the case. Candidates only experience their own interviews, so they are not able to compare their performance with other applicants. 

Tutors seek to be encouraging to everyone they interview so that all candidates can feel proud of their performance when they leave the interview. This is the case even if the candidate has performed less well overall than other candidates. An unintended consequence of this is that some candidates overestimate how well they have done.

General Principles

1. Reviews will be dealt with confidentially by all parties involved, except where it is necessary to disclose information to carry out a fair investigation (e.g. your identity will usually be disclosed to the College or Department whose decision is being reviewed and to anyone who is the subject of your complaint or whose decision is being appealed).

2. All parties involved in a Review are required to act reasonably and fairly towards each other and to respect the University’s procedures.

3. If the subject matter of a Review falls across more than one University procedure, the University will deal with the matter as flexibly, fairly and proportionately as possible.

4. There is no right of review over matters of academic judgement.

5. Anyone involved in a Review may act through a representative who should usually be a member of the University, a family member or teacher (for applicants), or a trade union officer (for members of staff).

6. All Reviews will be dealt with promptly. Any time-critical factors set out in the Review Request Form will be taken into account.

7. Time limits should usually be met by all parties. Time limits may only be extended by the Director of Undergraduate Admissions where it is necessary to do so in order to ensure a fair outcome.

8. Review requests which are anonymous or made by third parties will only be considered in exceptional circumstances where there are compelling reasons to do so.

9. The Director of Undergraduate Admissions may decline to conduct a Review where the matters in dispute are currently being considered or have been decided by an external body (such as a court or tribunal).

10. No one carrying out a Review should have any conflict of interest in the matter.

11. If the Director of Undergraduate Admissions is conflicted, or otherwise unable to determine the matter, an appropriate substitute will be appointed, who will usually be the Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

12. A reference to the Director of Undergraduate Admissions means the Director of Undergraduate Admissions or an appointed substitute. 

First Stage: Complaint

1. If you wish to make a complaint about any aspect of your experience of the undergraduate admissions procedure, or to appeal the admissions decision on the basis of procedural error or irregularity, please submit an Admissions Complaint Form as soon as possible to the Tutor for Admissions at the relevant college or Admissions Coordinator for Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The form must be submitted within 28 calendar days of (a) for complaints, when the matters you are complaining about occurred, or (b), for appeals, the date you were notified of the relevant admissions decision.

2. Because of the 'college-blind' applications procedure operating for Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, a complaint related to either of those courses should be submitted to the Admissions Coordinator for the appropriate programme.

3. An appeal against an admissions decision will not normally be upheld unless there has been a substantial procedural error or irregularity in the decision-making process. You are asked to specify in the Admissions Complaint Form what you believe the error or irregularity to have been.

4. The Oxford colleges are committed to good practice in admissions and to ensuring that they adhere to the Common Framework for Undergraduate Admissions. The Tutor for Admissions or Admissions Coordinator will investigate the complaint with appropriate colleagues. 

5. The Tutor for Admissions or Admissions Coordinator will inform you of their decision within 10 working days of receipt of your complaint. The decision will either reject, uphold or partly uphold your complaint and/or appeal and will set out reasons for the decision and any directions or recommendations arising from it.

6. Where a complaint and/or appeal is upheld the college or department should give consideration to whether any steps need to be taken to prevent similar errors occurring in future.

Second Stage: Review

1. If you are dissatisfied with the response from the college or department you may request a Review by the Director of Undergraduate Admissions on one or more of the following grounds:

a. there was a procedural irregularity or error in the Decision-Maker’s investigation;
b. the Decision-Maker’s decision was unreasonable (you must identify which aspects of the Decision-Maker’s decision you consider to be objectively unreasonable and explain why); or
c. you were not provided with clear reasons for the Decision-Maker’s decision.

2. You should submit an Admissions Review Request Form to the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at uaocomplaintsandappeals@admin.ox.ac.uk  within 20 working days of the date of the final response from the college or department. The Director for Undergraduate Admissions may consider a Review request made in another format where it is fair to do so.

3. The Director for Undergraduate Admissions will normally reach a decision and send you a decision letter within 20 University working days of receiving your Admissions Review Request Form. (University working days do not include weekends, Bank Holidays, the Thursday before Easter, or fixed closure days over the Christmas period.) The letter will set out the Director for Undergraduate Admissions’ decision, including the reasons for the decision and any directions and/or recommendations.

4. The decision letter from the Director for Undergraduate Admissions is the end of the University’s procedures.