14. Queries and Complaints from Candidates

14.1. The Proctors’ role

Any complaint or query about the content, conduct, or outcome of an examination, by a candidate or their tutor should be made by the Senior Tutor, who is invited but not required to comment on the issues, and should be addressed to the Proctors. This prevents chairs and individual examiners from being lobbied or pestered in any way, and in particular ensures that no unfair advantage is given to particular candidates or groups of candidates by reason of a Senior Tutor’s or tutor’s acquaintance with an examiner. Examiners must on no account discuss any matter relating to individual candidates with tutors, Senior Tutors, or candidates. Any attempt at direct communication with examiners by individual candidates should be reported to the Proctors, who will advise the examiners. Such communications compromise the anonymity of the examination process, and are not in candidates’ interests.

If the Proctors consider the matter sufficiently serious to warrant investigation, they will usually start by getting in touch with the relevant chair of examiners (or, if the matter relates to some aspect of practical arrangements for the examination, the Head of Examinations and Assessments) to ask for comments.

Information explaining the details of the procedure is available to candidates on request (email proctors.office@proctors.ox.ac.uk).

14.2. Complaints about the setting of a question paper

If a problem emerges with a question paper, this should be dealt with either before, or as close as possible to, the start of an examination. Typing errors, for example, may result in a question from a candidate, which can be answered on the spot in the examination and the answer communicated to all candidates. If a complaint is made after the particular paper has ended but before the marking and classification are complete, the Proctors' Office will draw the matter to the Chair's attention for the Board to address and consider further at its final meeting, and if necessary, the Proctors will seek to agree with the chair of examiners a means of fairly compensating all candidates before any results are disclosed. A similar complaint made after the results are published is very difficult to deal with in a satisfactory manner.

14.3. Queries about results

With regard to examination results, it should be noted that the Proctors will not consider complaints and appeals simply on the grounds that the result did not match expectations or that re-marking might give a candidate an improved result needed for acceptance for further study or employment. The Proctors have no power to consider appeals against the academic judgement of the examiners.

Most inquiries are a matter of double-checking that scripts have been fully assessed, marks properly recorded, and classifications correctly arrived at. On receipt of the chair’s response, the Proctor will evaluate the information and, if he or she considers that it answers the query, relay the details to the candidate(s) and college(s) concerned.

14.4. Complaints about the conduct of an examination

Where a matter appears to be more serious at the outset, or where the initial response provided does not satisfy, the Proctors will make a more detailed investigation into a complaint about the conduct of the examination. This may involve extensive correspon­dence with the chair (and, exceptionally, individual examiners or assessors) and meetings to explore and resolve particular issues. 

If the Proctors find that there has been a significant error in the conduct of an examination, they will indicate an appropriate course of action to the board of examiners or other responsible body. This may involve asking the examiners to reconvene, or consult by correspondence, in order to review their decision relating to a particular candidate or group of candidates. If this leads to a change in the candidate’s result, the examiners will be formally authorised by the Proctors to amend the Results Sheet.

The Proctors’ duty under Statute IX to ensure that examinations are conducted in accordance with the Statutes and Regulations does not empower them to challenge properly exercised academic judgement.

The Proctors’ adjudication and any subsequent review of either a complaint or an academic appeal completes the University’s internal procedures. Complainants are also able to take cases to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) after all internal University procedures are exhausted.

Chairs are asked to ensure, if they leave Oxford for any significant period of time during the year following the conclusion of the examination, that their records relating to the examination remain available for consultation by the Proctors if required. This is particularly important for the first forty days, since the University has a legal obligation under the Data Protection Act to disclose certain information on application within this period. Chairs must not provide information directly to, or enter into correspondence with, individual candidates, tutors, or any other party acting on candidates’ behalf, even after results have been notified to colleges.