Disputes in British Universities

name withheld, Northern Ireland

I have just discovered your website recently and sincerely empathise with all the others who have been treated unjustly by their universities.  

I was a PGCE student at a university college in Northern Ireland during 2003-04.  I had worked extremely hard throughout the year and had passed all assessments until one week before the end of the course when I was visited and assessed on final teaching practice by an external examiner (unexpectedly) and the programme leader.  They failed that assessment and indicated that I would have to repeat the teaching practice in September.  They told me that there were concerns about my practice.  I was deeply shocked and traumatised by this and challenged their decision because it was like a bolt from the blue.  When I asked what those concerns were I was told that it was about my behaviour management.  No one had given me any indication either verbally or in writing that I was being judged as failing or that there were any 'concerns’ I had been assessed by a college tutor during the first week of my final teaching practice and was given a positive verbal and written report and then 3 weeks later I was being failed without warning. If there had been concerns then why did the teacher leave me unsupervised to teach the class for long periods? I sought and attended meetings with college staff and school staff to find out what was going on and why I was never told that there were alleged 'concerns'. I was then told that I was being given the 'opportunity to improve' in the final week. I was under intense scrutiny during that week and was ultimately assessed by a university college director for 3 consecutive hours at the end of the week. The teaching practice was failed and I was instructed to do a further teaching practice in September. I refused to do a further teaching practice and protested against the severely unfair and negligent way in which I had been treated. I had no confidence in the university college's assessment competence. They seemed to be 'making it up as they went along' because there was an absence of written procedures and guidance. I returned to my previous occupation, nursing.  

Since then I have exhausted all internal procedures of appeals and complaints, which took up most of my spare time.  I have to submit an appeal to the university's Board of Visitors by the end of February 2007.  I have files upon files of documentation related to my case.  My difficulty is that I am unsure as to how to structure this appeal.  I am appealing against the original decision made by the board of examiners to fail my final teaching practice and also appealing against the unfair outcomes of my appeals and complaints since then.   

I would really welcome any advice regarding the structuring of my appeal.  I'm not sure whether to complain or appeal or both.  The university guidance information is vague, brief and unclear.  I have been told that the Board of Visitors will not dispute academic judgement so I am under no illusion that I will ever be awarded my PGCE.  Nevertheless I am determined to get justice for the grossly unfair way in which I was treated especially because of the attempts to discredit my good character.  I believe that I was used as a scapegoat for the incompetence of my trainers.  The stress caused to me has been horrendous but I have managed to remain sane.  

I would prefer to remain anonymous at this stage because I do not want to jeopardise my case.  I have also written to CAFAS.   

Many thanks.