Student complaints policy and procedure
Detailed below is the three stage process the University has adopted for dealing with students’ complaints.
Complaints policy and procedure
Stage 1 - Informal Complaint
4.2 It is expected that most complaints can be resolved at an early stage by discussing the matter informally at a local level. A student should therefore bring the matter to the attention of an appropriate member of staff, who will aim to resolve the matter by informal discussion.
For example, if the complaint concerns academic matters, a student might wish to take this up with their Personal Tutor / Research Supervisor / Director of Studies, or with another member of academic staff. If the complaint is about a University service, then the student should talk to an appropriate member of staff from that service. If there is any doubt regarding who to contact, or if the student feels it is more appropriate, the Head of Department or Service should be contacted.
4.3 Recipients of informal student complaints are responsible for addressing them promptly and fairly. The recipient will normally let the student know (or arrange for a colleague to do so) within five working days of receiving the initial complaint what steps (if any) will be taken to address the complaint and the expected timescale, and advise to whom they should submit a formal complaint if they are dissatisfied with this outcome.
4.4 It should be noted that this stage will normally be an informal oral process (or via email if face to face contact is not possible), but where proportionate to do so any agreed action should be confirmed (normally by email).
4.5 Any staff involved will be encouraged to share the experience where the effectiveness of their Department or Service could benefit. It is expected that the majority of complaints will be resolved in this way.
Stage 2 - Formal Complaint
4.6 If a student has attempted to resolve matters informally but is not satisfied with the outcome, they may elect to proceed to the next stage by submitting a formal complaint within fourteen calendar days of receiving the outcome of their informal complaint. A student may also submit a formal complaint if the issue involved is too complex or serious for informal resolution. At this point, students may wish to seek advice from Student Services, the Students’ Union or the University Independent Advisor for Postgraduate Research Students on how best to progress their complaint. The student should submit their complaint by means of a Student Complaint Form to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please copy in the Head of the Department or Service concerned if known. The email@example.com email address is monitored by the Student Complaints Manager.
4.7 The student should keep a copy of their complaint and any other documentation submitted for their own records.
4.8 The student should receive an acknowledgement of receipt of their complaint, from the Student Complaints Manager (or nominee), within five working days of receipt. The Student Complaints Manager (or nominee) will also notify the Director of Academic Registry and Director of Student Services of the complaint. The Director of Academic Registry and / or the Director of Student Services may at this point contact the relevant Head of Department or Service should they feel it would be appropriate for them to become involved in the investigation of the complaint. In any event, the Head of Department or Service is free to consult either post holder if they consider it appropriate.
4.9 The complaint will be investigated by the Head of Department or Service concerned (or their nominee) or by a nominee of the Department of Policy, Planning and Compliance if the Head of Department has had involvement in the matters complained about. They will normally arrange to meet with the student to discuss their complaint in detail.
4.10 At this meeting the student will have the right to be accompanied by a friend or advisor as will any other parties to the complaint. Where a member of staff is party to the complaint, they can be accompanied by a work colleague or Trade Union representative. Other parties to the complaint may also be invited to attend the meeting, or may meet separately, at the discretion of the person investigating the complaint as is appropriate to the nature of the complaint.
4.11 If a student fails to attend the meeting (which could be by video or telephone call if both parties are not present at the University), the Department will contact them to reschedule. If a student fails to attend a rescheduled meeting within fourteen days of the original meeting date, the investigation may continue and be concluded in their absence.
4.12 The meeting will follow this format:
- The student will be asked to explain their complaint and present any supporting evidence, with the assistance of their representative as necessary, following which they may be asked questions by the Head of Department / Service (or their nominee), and by any other parties to the complaint present;
- If present, other parties to the complaint will then respond to the complaint, with the assistance of their companion(s) as necessary, following which they may also be asked questions by the Head of Department / Service (or their nominee) and the complainant. If not present, the Head of Department / Service (or their nominee) will make any necessary enquiries.
4.13 The staff member who carried out the investigation will produce a report which outlines the process followed, the information gathered, the conclusions drawn and any recommendations. The student or their representative should receive copies of the information considered and a copy of the investigation report.
4.14 The student should receive this written response within sixty calendar days following both a submission of a student complaint form and confirmation by the complainant that they wish a formal investigation to begin. If this is not possible, the student will be informed in writing of the progress being made towards the consideration of their complaint and given a timescale for completion. In either event, the Director of Student Services, the Director of Academic Registry and firstname.lastname@example.org should receive a copy of the correspondence.
4.15 If the complaint is considered justified, the student will be informed of the action taken to resolve or redress the complaint. If the complaint is not upheld, then the student will receive an explanation of the reason for this decision.
Stage 3 - Review by Director of PP & C (or nominee)
4.16 If the student is not satisfied with the decision taken in respect of their complaint under Stage 2 above, they may request that a review of the case be carried out by the Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance or nominee, usually the Deputy Director (Academic Governance & Compliance). Such a request should be by submitting a Request for Review form to email@example.com within fourteen calendar days of the student being notified of the outcome of Stage 2. The request should state the grounds for review, which should meet one of the following criteria:
- That there was procedural error in the conduct of the investigation of such a nature as to cause doubt as to the determination reached;
- That new evidence has been made available which the student could not reasonably have provided during the investigatory process;
- That there was bias during the procedure of such a nature as to cause doubt as to the determination reached;
4.17 If the Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance or nominee is satisfied that a review is justified, he / she will have discretion to either:
- Make a judgement on the complaint based on the written evidence; or
- Establish a Review Panel to examine the evidence and come to a judgement on the complaint. The Review Panel will normally comprise one lay member of Council and two members of staff chosen by the Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance or nominee, of which he / she may be one. All members of the Review Panel will have had no previous association with the case.
4.18 When undertaking a review, the Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance (or nominee) or the Review Panel has the power to overturn any decision made under Stage 2 of this procedure.
4.19 If a Review Panel is established, the student will have the right to attend a meeting to explain their complaint and be accompanied at this meeting by one person (for instance, a representative of the Students’ Union) as will any other parties to the complaint. Those accompanying shall not normally be professional legal representatives, and in the case of members of staff, will either be a work colleague or Trade Union representative. Other parties to the complaint, and / or their companion, may also be invited to attend the meeting on the same basis at the discretion of the Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance (or nominee).
4.20 Students will be notified of this meeting in writing, and this notification will include:
- the date of the meeting and an explanation of what the student needs to do if they cannot attend on that date, or does not wish to attend
- the names of the panel members and their job titles
- the names of anyone else attending the meeting and what their role will be
- an outline of how the meeting will proceed
- copies of relevant documents
4.21 Meetings of the Review Panel will follow this format:
- The Student will be asked to explain their complaint and present any supporting evidence, with the assistance of their companion as necessary, following which they may be asked questions by the Panel, and by any other parties to the complaint;
- The other parties to the complaint will then respond to the complaint, with the assistance of their companion as necessary, following which they may also be asked questions by the Panel and the complainant.
- Both parties will be asked to sum up, following which the Review Panel will come to a judgement on the complaint.
4.22 If the Director of Policy, Planning and Compliance (or nominee) makes a judgement on the complaint based on the evidence already in his/her possession, or if a Review Panel is convened, the student will be notified of the outcome in writing normally within thirty calendar days of submitting a request for review. If the complaint is upheld the student will be informed of any action to be taken to resolve the matter. If the complaint is not upheld, the student will be informed of the reason for this decision, and the University will also issue a Completion of Procedures letter to the student stating that the University’s internal complaints procedures have been exhausted.
4.23 If the student does not submit a request for review within the 14-day timeframe, they will be issues with a Completion of Procedures letter within 28 days.
Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA)
If the University’s internal procedure has not resulted in the resolution of a complaint to the student’s satisfaction, they have the option to pursue it with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). Where a case is considered eligible, the OIA will provide independent adjudication on the resolution of complaints, once the institution’s internal procedures have been exhausted. The Students’ Union’s Advice and Support Centre can advise on this external review process. The OIA website can be found at: http://www.oiahe.org.uk