I attend one of the world's best universities, where I recently completed a master's degree (MSc). I did very well in the modules, scoring mostly distinction grades. However, despite resitting an examination I sadly failed a core module overall by just 0.75 which is under a mark.

The exam was mathematical in nature, and wrote by a new professor who did not write the first exam I sat. The first question on the exam used an initialism I was unfamiliar with, for example using NSC (Nice Sizzled Chicken) instead of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) leaving me unable to answer the question. The next problem was he used a mathematical symbol in an incorrect and different way to which I had been taught by the original professor, and the core reading book. I do understand that in Computer Science people are allowed to change the definition of mathematical symbols, provided they explain what they want them to mean, however I had no way of knowing this professor's definition because I was told to study the course material from when I took the class.

I am under the impression that their appeals process will simply reject my complaint about the exam for nonsense reasons, forcing me to take legal action in London. I will get their response within a few months. I am open minded about other routes of action too.

Is it possible for a Civil Court to force the university to award me the full MSc, as opposed to a less impressive PGDip which is what they are currently offering me? I have no interest in a financial settlement.

  • 2
    Your first act should be to see if you can retake the modules exam...
    – user28517
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 5:48
  • 8
    You say "I am under the impression that their appeals process will simply reject my complaint about the exam for nonsense reasons" But have you actually appealed?
    – user35069
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 6:31
  • 2
    @user5623335 was your perceived issue existing on both versions of the exam you sat or just the second one?
    – user28517
    Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 6:44
  • 4
    If you haven't already, ask for advice on Academia.They'll be able to offer practical advice. Commented Dec 29, 2020 at 10:40
  • 1
    This is basically asking what the law is, not for specific legal advice, IMO. It should not be closed. Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


Theoretically, a court could order the awarding of a degree. However, the probability that this will actually happen is extremely low: in general, courts only order specific performance when money awards are no substitute. To get anything, you would have to prove that the university was in some way negligent, that they had some duty of care to you which they breached. You could read the judgment in Siddiqui v. Oxford, where plaintiff lost and was only asking for money, to get a grasp of how courts deal with the question of educational negligence and failed exams / bad grades. It is possible that there is a cause of action based on breach of contract, given the seeming unilateral change in scope of examination. But you would need your attorney to study whether there was any contractual "promise" as to the scope of the exam.

  • Part 1: "seeming unilateral change in scope of examination" <--- The only problem this re-sit exam had was the change in the usage of mathematical notation in one of the questions. The year I took this course the professor through his lecture slide and content, the core reading book, and regular mathematical books all defined this symbol to mean one thing. This old professor was replaced with a new professor, who changed the meaning of this mathematical symbol to something completely different so during the exam I could not reasonably understand the question. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 14:31
  • Part 2: In mathematics you are allowed to change the meaning of symbols, but I was not informed of this, and my university’s regulations state the re-sit exam should be appropriate for people that did the course the academic year I did it. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 14:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .