Student wins appeal after receiving autogenerated expulsion email

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On October 18th, a third-year King’s student won his appeal against the university after receiving an ‘exit-award’ without any explanation for his expulsion.

The autogenerated email from Student Registry Services was received only two weeks before the start of term.

“I felt betrayed. The sudden expulsion had a huge emotional and mental impact on me,” the student, who prefers to remain anonymous and will thus be called ‘James’, told Roar.

Like most other 3rd year students, James was getting ready for the final push of his King’s experience: dissertation, high-weighing essays, and master’s applications. Having signed a one-year contract for a flat, it was not just academic worries that weighed on his shoulders but financial ones too.

After a month-long appeal process, filled with uncertainty over whether he would be allowed to finish his degree, James won his case against the Assessment Board. His evidence showed contradiction and confusion in King’s correspondence and he was ultimately re-enrolled.

 

Failed modules in Hong Kong

While completing a semester abroad at Hong Kong University, James took a module called ‘Introduction to Econometrics’, a module notorious for being more mathematically advanced than its counterpart at King’s and which the study abroad office had warned students against taking.

In February, while struggling with the advanced statistics, James wrote to the head of his department that he was worried about flunking the module and jeopardising his degree; however, he received responses assuring him that that would not happen. An email sent to him by the Head of Department said: “Were you to fail one or two modules at HKU you can still progress to the third year here provided you collect 210 credits in total (but you would need to make up the missing credits in the third year).”

Ultimately failing the econometrics module in Hong Kong, the student obtained 36 UK credits while on a semester abroad, as opposed to the 60 credits that students normally attempt every semester according to his HKU grades certificate.

By the end of his second year James had obtained 120 credits from his first year, 60 from his third semester at King’s and 36 for his fourth semester in Hong Kong, which adds up to 216 credits, above the 210 credit requirement.

Hong Kong University Campus (prior to on-going riots). Photo by student Charlie Batchelor.

 

“This certainly looks like an error”

The auto-generated ‘Exit Award’ was sent to him in September despite having achieved all the credits he was promised were sufficient. The assurance from the King’s staff while abroad had clearly been forgotten by the King’s administration by the end of the summer.

Shocked by the auto-generated message informing him of his expulsion, he wrote to his programme director. She replied in an e-mail: “This certainly looks like an error”.

 The Exit Award that the Student received.

 

Paradox in the King’s Award System

The moment of relief given by James’ programme director was abruptly cut short when another e-mail on September 13 from the Head of Department reiterated the sudden expulsion and included a brief reasoning behind the action taken by King’s:

“You have been given an exit award because you will not be able to take enough credits in your third year to complete your degree, which requires 360 credits”.

The day after, the Head of Department added that several other students had been ‘exited’ too because third-year students in his faculty only can take 135 credits in a year.

“It is not possible to obtain 360 credits! If you begin your third year at 210 and are only allowed to take another 135 credits, then you end at 345 credits,” James told Roar, angry at the seeming paradox in the King’s award system.

 

Knowledgable parents helped with victorious appeal process 

Supported by his parents, on September 15, the student filed an appeal against the assessment board.

On October 18, he won his appeal process against the decision made by the King’s Assessment Board to exit him from the College and he was re-enrolled into the university.

The Appeal Board admitted in an email sent to him that “the board saw evidence that the study abroad guidance with regards to progression was confusing, and on this basis the part of the appeal that pertains to the exit award is upheld. The student will be allowed to progress to the third year.”

Both of James’ parents work within academia and are familiar with the credit system and the processes behind expulsion.

James has expressed concern about the fact that less privileged study abroad students might face the same auto-generated ‘Exit Awards’ in the future. He said: “What about the students who do not have parents familiarised with university practice? What would their chances be in a similar situation to mine, where you feel ostracised by an institution you trusted?”

Roar News has been in touch with King’s PR team and await their response.

 

Timeline of the student’s Exit Award and Appeal Process
  • February 25: The student writes to King’s expressing concern over potentially failing modules at HKU, to which his head of department reassures him that only 210 credits are needed to proceed to the third year.
  • April 10: A Student Support Officer worryingly follows up on the student to hear how he is doing. The student expresses continuous concern that he might fail some of his modules via email.
  • April 11: A Study Abroad Officer reassures the student via email that 210 credits are all he needs to proceed to third year.
  • July 19: HKU releases the student’s grades certificate in which it states he failed ‘Introductory Econometrics’ but passed his other modules.
  • September 6: Student receives auto-generated Exit Award on King’s Registry Services.
  • September 13-14: The head of the student’s department reiterates the Exit Award and argues that having 210 credits is not enough.
  • September 15: The student files appeal against the Exit Award including 21 attached emails and official documents.
  • October 18: Assessment Board of the respective faculty upholds the student’s appeal and he is re-enrolled into the college again.

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