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Statement on recent erroneous reports about the recent ruling by a Warwick complaints committee

The University has had some enquiries about a recently reported, but inaccurate, story which examined a particular student complaint here at Warwick. We hope the following information will be of help to anyone wishing to know more about that story.

This student’s complaint, about the allocation of her supervisor whilst she was a Masters student at Warwick, was fully investigated in accordance with the University’s complaints procedure. Following a detailed examination of the case, the Committee that considered her complaint decided that the supervision provided by her allocated supervisor was “exemplary”, noting explicitly that “there was no evidence of unprofessional behaviour” on the part of that supervisor in her supervision of the student.

However, notwithstanding those findings, the Committee decided that the complaint be upheld because of the decision by her Department not to allocate her a different supervisor in April 2010, when the student requested it. The Committee noted that whilst her Department had adhered to its procedures on the allocation of dissertation supervisors, the Committee considered these procedures to have been insufficiently flexible for dealing with exceptional cases, such as that of this particular student.

In light of that and without questioning or prejudicing the academic judgment of the Board of Examiners, the Committee recommended to the Board of Examiners that the student be allowed the allocation of a new supervisor and either:

(i) To submit a new dissertation under new supervision; OR

(ii) To revise her previously submitted dissertation under new supervision.

She elected to revise her previously submitted dissertation. She did so and that significantly revised work received a mark from an entirely different set of markers that achieved the level of a distinction. The University was happy to see that the complaints procedure was effective and provided a fair outcome which was accepted by the student.

The University was therefore very surprised and disappointed to see that the Jewish Chronicle and another recent published interview with this student presented a narrative that is quite simply at variance with many of these facts. The University is particularly concerned about three erroneous assertions:

Firstly, the assertion that this student made several representations for a change of tutor over a protracted period. This is factually incorrect. The University has on record only one email from the student expressing that concern which is dated 27 April 2010. There was no further correspondence from that student indicating such concerns until after she had received the mark for her dissertation. It should also be pointed out that the student, despite what she claims about being uncomfortable with her dissertation advisor, actively solicited on her own volition additional assistance from that supervisor several months past the normal period allotted. Her department also has on record the student’s praise for the quality of her supervision.

Secondly, the assertion that the “The dissertation was marked by another professor ....who gave me a higher mark. But....the total mark was very low.” In fact both markers individually independently gave broadly similar marks to this first piece of work, neither of which could in any way be described as “very low”. In fact both those marks equated to a very strong pass.

Thirdly, the University disputes the assertion by the student that there were only marginal differences between the original dissertation and the newly submitted work. The student’s new supervisor, who she was happy with, and who marked the significantly reworked dissertation, says that is incorrect and that there were significant changes between the two submitted pieces of work. At no time was there any 're-mark' of the student’s original submission.

The University explained many of these points to the Jewish Chronicle reporter when asked about this case and we were very disappointed to see that this information was not included in their editorial.

Peter Dunn, Head of Communications,
Communications Office, University House,
University of Warwick
email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

29th December 2011